Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

If you are tired of serving the same meals over and over, try Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew. This exotic sounding but simple one pot meal from North Africa can be prepared in under an hour. Your family and friends will love this delicious dish filled with tender chicken, chickpeas and vegetables simmered in a broth seasoned with warming spices.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew With Sweet Potatoes, Chickpeas And Vegetables

Served with a side of fluffy couscous to absorb the  flavorful and aromatic sauce, the stew is light yet filling. It is perfectly seasoned but if you want something spicy hot, you can serve the stew with a small bowl of harissa, a spicy Moroccan chili pepper paste, on the side for added heat and flavor.

This Moroccan chicken stew recipe is easily adapted to your own taste and preferences. Leave out the chicken and substitute the chicken stock with vegetable broth and you will have a wonderful vegetarian meal. Other vegetables such a pumpkin, carrots, parsnips or turnips could also be used.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew Is Perfect When Entertaining Friends

If you will be preparing this dish for an evening with friends, I suggest serving the chicken stew with a condiment tray of dried fruits such as apricots, prunes, raisins, figs, dates, cashews and pistachios. Pitted olives, chopped preserved lemons, fresh mint and cilantro are also good toppings for the stew.

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Stew

Serves 2 to 4, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken thighs (figure 2 thighs a person), cut into bite size pieces
  • Flour for dredging the chicken
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. peeled, grated fresh ginger (about a 1 inch piece) or 1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. Ras El Hanout* a traditional North African spice mix available from ethnic markets and some grocery stores
  • 2 tsp. harissa, a Moroccan chili pepper paste that comes in a can or tube (adjust to your preference for heat)
  • 3 plum tomatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 3 – 4 c. chicken stock, homemade if possible
  • l large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 zucchini, cubed
  • 1 yellow squash, cubed
  • chopped cilantro, garnish (optional)
  • 1 c. dried couscous, prepared according to package directions.

*Ras El Hanout is a Moroccan blend of spices such as cardamom, cayenne, coriander, cumin, paprika, peppercorns and turmeric with a little sweetness from spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. If you can’t find the blend at your local market, you can find a recipe at the link I’ve underlined in blue above. You can also just add a little extra of the other spices I’ve listed for this recipe.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper then dredge in flour, shaking off the excess. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium and when hot, add the chicken. Cook until just browned, about 1 – 2 minutes per side then transfer to a plate. Add the onion and cook until it starts to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, all the spices and the harissa and stir to mix well then cook, stirring for a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and reserved chicken, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes until the sweet potatoes are just getting tender. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Add in the zucchini and squash and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.

While the stew is simmering, prepare the couscous according to the package directions. Fluff and keep warm. To serve the stew, place a little couscous in individual bowls then ladle in some stew and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

Notes:

  • Try to cut the vegetables into equal sizes so that they will cook evenly.

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Moroccan chicken stew is perfect for entertaining a group. If you are planning to serve the stew to guests, you can have it prepared an hour ahead of time. To do so, only cook the squash until barely tender crisp, cover the pot and place in a 200 degree oven until your guests arrive. The ingredients will continue to cook and the flavors will meld. When your friends step in your kitchen, they will be greeted by the wonderful aromas of this flavorful dish. Serve the chicken stew with warmed pitas or flatbreads and a condiment tray of dried fruits, nuts, herbs and harissa, for those who like it hot, and your guests will be very happy.

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Italian Lentil, Sausage and Pasta Soup

When soup season rolls around, make a pot of Italian Lentil, Sausage, And Pasta Soup. It is a flavorful and hearty soup, nourishing and quick cooking, so it makes a delicious a weekday meal for you and your family.

Italian Sausage And Pasta Soup

Italian Lentil, Sausage And Pasta Soup

I try to cook healthy meals and lentils are highly nutritious. They have a low caloric content, are high in protein and fiber and support good heart health.  But, and it is a big BUT, if I told my husband that dinner was going to be a bowl of lentils he would probably mumble and grumble but would eat and probably enjoy them. Now if I take those same lentils and add some Italian hot sausage and just a little pasta, he is all smiles. I didn’t tell him that this high fiber, antioxidant filled soup is good for him. Keeping our loved ones healthy sometimes takes a little bit of strategy, don’t you think.

This is a versatile soup in that you can use either chicken or pork sausage, vegetable or chicken stock. You can use as much or as little pasta as you like or leave it out entirely. Want more vegetables, add tomatoes, spinach or kale. Prepare this flavorful soup according to your family’s tastes and I think there will be smiles all around the table.

Italian Sausage And Pasta Soup

Italian Lentil, Sausage And Pasta Soup

Italian Lentil, Sausage and Pasta Soup

Serves 2 – 4 as a main course, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil plus extra for drizzling
  • 8 oz (about 2 links) Italian sausage, pork, turkey or chicken, casings removed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 c. lentils (I used French green because they hold their shape) sorted and rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 1 c. water (if needed)
  • 4 c. stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 2 – 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 c. small tube pasta such as ditalini*
  • a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Sauté the sausage in 1 tablespoon of oil in a pot over medium heat, breaking up the meat into pieces, until brown. Add the carrots, celery and onions and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, herbs, bay leaf and tomato paste, stir well and cook about 1 minute. Add the lentils and mix to coat. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Add in the stock and bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer covered, with the lid slightly ajar, until lentils are almost tender, about 20 minutes. Season with the salt, pepper and crushed red pepper, if using. Stir in the pasta and continue to cook until the pasta is done, about 10 minutes. The pasta will absorb some of the stock so ff the soup gets too thick, you can add some water. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs before serving. Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, if desired. Serve with freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese.

*If you plan to eat the soup over several days, cook the pasta separately. Add the pasta before serving so that it doesn’t overcook.

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This is a complete meal in a bowl but if you want, a green salad and a piece of crusty bread would be a nice addition. A good glass of Tuscan red wine would be great as well. The next time you think about making soup for dinner, try this hearty Italian lentil, sausage and pasta soup. I know your family will enjoy it even if they may not realize that it is also a meal that is good for them.

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Pork Cordon Bleu

Pork Cordon Bleu, a golden panfried pork cutlet filled with flavorful smoked ham and melting cheese may sound fancy but it is really just a stuffed and rolled schnitzel, perfect to serve your family during the week or your friends for an Octoberfest party.

Pork Cordon Bleu

Pork Cordon Bleu With Lingonberry Preserves And Roasted Asparagus

While the original Cordon Bleu may call for veal, pork seems to be equally popular, especially in Europe. I saw it on menus in all three countries that my husband and I visited this year…France, Germany and Austria. If you follow Back Road Journal, you know that my husband enjoys cooking as much as I do and this is one of his specialties that I’m sharing with you.

Pork Cordon Bleu

Serves two, adjust the recipe according

  • 2 thin boneless pork loin chops
  • 2 slices Black Forest ham
  • 3 slices Münster, Gruyère or Emmentaler cheese  (I personally like Münster as it melts well but doesn’t seep out during the cooking process)
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to taste
  • 1 egg, beaten well
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 c. Panko breadcrumbs, more or less*
  • 1/2 c. fine dry breadcrumbs, more or less*
  • 1/4 c. olive oil, depending on the size of the sauté pan
  • 3 Tbsp. butter

Lingonberry (European cranberry) preserves to serve on the side, (optional)

*I like the crunch that the Panko breadcrumbs add to the recipe but you can just use one cup of fine dry breadcrumbs if you wish.

Cover the pork with plastic wrap and gently pound to 1/4 inch thick. Unwrap and season one side with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder then spread with a light coating of mustard. Place a slice of ham on top of the mustard coating and top with cheese (it will take about 1 and 1/2 slices to cover each) and then roll up tightly.

Place the flour, beaten egg and the mixed breadcrumbs in three separate bowls. Dredge the pork rolls in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into the beaten egg then roll in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing the crumbs so they stick.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a sauté pan over moderate heat. The oil should be hot enough to brown the meat in about 3 minutes but not so hot that it burns the crust. Sauté the rolls, starting seam side down, on all sides until lightly browned (about a minute on each side). Place on a rack in a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving so the cheese doesn’t run out when sliced. Lingonberry preserves are a nice accomplishment to serve with the pork Cordon Bleu.

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The pork schnitzel Cordon Bleu is a quick and easy meal to prepare and one that my husband and I enjoy often. We suggest you serve this juicy, tender and delicious pork recipe as a weekday meal as well as for your friends. A nice Grüner Veltliner or Riesling wine from Germany or Austria would be a good choice to go along with the crispy pork.

 

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Wellnesshotel Jagdhof, Where You Can Enjoy A Sense Of Peace

Wellnesshotel Jagdhof, a hotel where you can soak up the beauty of the nearby countryside, take life a little slower and enjoy a sense of real peace.

Hotel Jagdhof Röhrnbach

Wellnesshotel Jagdhof Located In Röhrnbach In The Bavarian Forest Region Of Germany

On the far side of Germany from the famous Black Forest lies the lesser known Bavarian Forest (Bayerischer Wald in German). The sun dappled woodland in the Southeast corner of Germany is where you can come to disconnect from everyday life, soak up the beauty of the countryside, take life at a slower pace and find a sense of real peace.

Beautiful Countryside Near Bavarian Forest

Beautiful Countryside Near The Bavarian Forest

Wellnesshotel Jagdhof, a five star Bavarian hotel, makes a wonderful base for exploring not only the Bavarian Forest but also picturesque cities along the Danube River (Donau in German) such as Regensburg and Passau known as the “city of three rivers” as well as the nearby Czech Republic. Located in the small Bavarian town of Röhrnbach, it is only a 30 minute drive to Passau, 1 1/2 hours to Regensburg,  2 hours to Munich and 3 1/2 hours to the beautiful Austrian city of Vienna, Austria. It is also just a 1 1/2 hour drive to the World Heritage town of Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic.

Bavarian Forest Countryside

The Beautiful Bavarian Forest Countryside

While only a short drive from these well known tourist destinations, this beautiful area is relatively unknown other than to hikers who want to hike the trails in Germany’s first national park and cyclists who want to ride the bike paths along the Danube and Ilz.

Two years ago we stayed at the family owned Jagdhof in Röhrnbach and enjoyed it so much that we added it to this year’s “favorites” itinerary before heading to Munich for our flight home. After our three night stay, I can say it has gone way up on our list of “favorite” hotels and hopely we will visit again in the future.

After a warm welcome, our car was parked in their free parking garage and our luggage was delivered to the room while were we offered a complimentary glass of bubbly, wine or beer and a snack before heading up to our room.

Since our last visit, the hotel has given the reception, bar and lounge areas a more contemporary look. One thing that didn’t change was our room, one of the wellness suites. It’s very much like a one bedroom apartment except without a kitchen. The living room has a comfortable sofa and chair, writing desk, and credenza with a mini bar and Nespresso machine and a large flat screen TV. There’s a large walk-in closet off the entrance foyer and a separate kingsize bedroom with another flat screen TV. The bathroom has a walk-in shower and a soaking tub and there is a separate WC. The suite has an outdoor terrace with access from both the livingroom and the bedroom.

The hotel’s outstanding spa, the largest in Bavaria, is exceptional. You can arrange to have massages, facials and body treatments or make use of the six different saunas and there is a separate ladies spa. The spa includes indoor and outdoor pools and large relaxing areas  with comfortable lounge chairs.

Jagdhof Buffet

Jagdhof’s Buffet And Show Kitchen

The hotel’s room rate includes all meals. The buffet breakfast has cooked to order eggs, sausage, bacon, sliced meats, salmon, and cheese. There are waffles, pastries, cereals, more than a dozen different breads, fruits and freshly pressed juices. The afternoon buffet has hot dishes, soups, salads, ice creams and delicious cakes and pastries. In the evening, the five course dinner menu has several choices in each category. In addition, there is a salad and dessert buffet as well as a cheese board. After dinner, many of the guests headed to the lounge for cocktails and to listen to live music.

During our stay, we made day trips to explore the countryside. Originating in the Black Forest, the Danube River becomes navigable in Regensburg and joins the Inn and Ilz Rivers in Passau so we wanted to explore some of the towns along the famous river.

The nearby town of Passau is called “the city of three rivers”, being surrounded by the waters of the Danube, Inn and Ilz Rivers. The city is a maze of cobbled streets that lead upwards to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, which has the world’s largest cathedral organ. On the Danube side, there is the fortress Veste Oberhaus and the pilgrimage church Mariahilf is on the Inn’s side.

Large riverboats line the quays waiting to take passengers to Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest and beyond. There are also smaller riverboats for short 45 minute or longer day trips along the rivers.

Regensburg Germany

Regensburg Germany

The famous World Heritage city of Regensburg, dating back to Roman times, is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval cities and is the oldest city along the Danube River.

Straubing Germany

Straubing Germany Is Known For It Beer Festival, Second Only To Octoberfest

Another pretty town along the Danube, midway between Passau and Regensburg is Straubing. Its gothic marketplace, the hub of the town’s social life, is where every August the town holds a beer festival second only to Munich’s Octoberfest.

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We were blessed with nice weather on our entire trip and what a difference it made seeing this lovely region of Bavaria on sunny days. Most people cruise the Danube River but it is also possible to explore many of the cities and small villages that line its banks by car. Hopefully, if you plan a trip to Bavaria you will include this interesting region.

 

 

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Salzburg’s Best Spa Resort, Genussdorf Gmachl

Whether you plan to visit Salzburg or the nearby hills from the opening scenes in the Sound of Music, Hotel Genussdorf Gmachl, is the perfect base for exploring this storied region of Austria with its mountains, lakes and pristine small villages.

Panorama Building Genussdorf Gmachl

Panorama Building Genussdorf Gmachl

Wellness Hotel Genussdorf Gmachl, located at the edge of Salzburg in the village of Bergheim, is my favorite hotel when visiting the beautiful Austrian State of Salzburg referred to as Salzburgerland by its citizens.  “Genussdorf” translates to “enjoyment village” and this seventh generation Gmachl family run hotel does feel like a small village with several acres of beautiful landscaped gardens, a tavern where locals like to dine and its own brewery, butcher and gift shop.

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The family is always thinking of new ways to improve their guests’ experiences and since my husband and I first discovered the hotel, it has been transformed into a lovely 4-star superior wellness hotel and awarded 4 lilies and 19 out of 20 points by Relax Guide, one of Europe’s most recognized wellness guides. It offers every comfort a guest could wish for while not forgetting to honor its historic past.

Wellness Hotel Genussdorf Gmachl

Wellness Hotel Genussdorf Gmachl In Salzburg Austria

The hotel has a natural, contemporary look that is designed with lots of carved wood, cork, leather and suede in shades of grays and taupes. The hotel has opening walls of glass that let in lots of natural light for the many plants and potted herbs growing throughout the hotel. While modern, I believe the hotel’s design still respects the longtime family traditions and thus attracts guests of all ages to the resort.

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There are eight different categories of rooms and this year we reserved a Niederhof room located in the spa building. While the hotel has smaller rooms and much larger rooms, just like Goldilocks, we thought the Niederhof room was “just right”. The room has walls of wood and fabric and the bathroom has Mozart themed frosted glass walls. Large built in closets, storage drawers and a desk along with a comfortable sofa and chair made the room extremely livable.

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Room rates include a breakfast buffet with a nice variety of sausages, cheese, salmon, cooked to order eggs, and so much more. If you wish you can add their gourmet board that includes an afternoon buffet with hot and cold snacks, fruit and cakes as well as a five course evening meal. You can also dine a’la carte in one of their several dining rooms or on the beautiful terrace in nice weather. The evening menu features traditional Austrian cooking as well as international dishes are all light, heathy and delicious no matter what you decide to eat.

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After a good nights sleep, start your explorations of Salzburg early in the day. Only 3 miles away, it takes about 10 – 15 minutes to get into the historic city center either by car or the local train located a short walk away. On a nice day, use one of the hotel’s electric bicycles to ride into town along the Salzach river.

Salzburg

The Beautiful Baroque City Of Salzburg

High above the rooftops, Hohensalzburg Fortress looks down on Salzburg, the City of Mozart. Built by the Prince Archbishops, they transformed the medieval city into the Baroque showplace that enchants visitors today.

Salzburg's Hohensalzburg Fortress

Salzburg’s Hohensalzburg Fortress

Be sure to visit the Geburtshaus, Mozart’s Birthplace, the cathedral, the Residenz and Mirabell Palace and its lovely gardens. For shopping, enjoy a stroll down the picturesque Getreidegasse.

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Right down the road from the hotel, you can visit the pilgrimage Basilica of Maria Plain. You can also drive or take a bus to the outskirts of the city to visit Hellbrunn Palace with its gardens and trick water fountains. Also worth a visit is Hanger Seven, at the Salzburg airport, home of the Red Bull collection of aircraft, formula one racing cars as well as two restaurants and a bar.

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Another day, visit the nearby lakes and mountains  in the outstanding Salzkammergut lake district in the Province of Salzburg. You will love the villages of St. Wolfgang and Hallstatt, one of the most photographed in Austria. Another suggestion for an pleasant day trip is the nearby German town of Berchtesgaden or St. Bartholomew’s church on Lake Königssee.

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After a day of sightseeing, it is nice to come back and relax on the hotel’s terrace, in the beautiful gardens or head to one of the hotel’s two spa areas. The adult only spa is located on the top floor of the Niederfhof building. It has an outdoor infinity pool and it’s terrace is a great place to relax under an umbrella and enjoy views of the surrounding mountains and Salzburg’s famous fortress. Indoors there is an infusion sauna, an herbal steam bath, ice plunge and a large relaxation area where you will find tea, cold drinks, nuts, dried fruits and fresh apples.

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The family spa is located in the Panorama building. There is an indoor pool connected to an outdoor swimming pool as well as a sauna and whirlpool. In the beautifully landscaped gardens, you will find covered loungers and beach chairs around a natural swimming pond as well as tennis courts.

Gmachl's Gardens

Gmachl’s Beautiful Landscaped Gardens

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This was our fourth stay at the seven generation, family run Genussdorf Gmachl and we have seen a lot of changes over the years…all for the better. You could plan a short stay at the resort simply because it is one of the top rated spa hotels in Austria but we also love it’s location on the outskirts of Salzburg. It makes the perfect base for exploring the entire province of Salzburg and nearby attractions in Germany. After our many visits, I would suggest spending at least three days in this beautiful area to have a good overall experience of this part of Austria. You will leave Austria with a lifetime of wonderful memories.

 

 

 

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Hotel Post Lermoos, A Beautiful Tyrolean Resort

The Tyrolean village of Lermoos may be small in size but its views are grand as it lies at the foot of the Zugspitz mountain. Within the village, Hotel Post Lermoos which is rated one of the Best Alpine Wellness Hotels in Austria, provides for one of the most spectacular mountain panoramas you can ever imagine.

Hotel Post Lermoos

View Of The Zugspitz At Sunset From Hotel Post, Lermoos, Austria

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This year my husband and I are returning to some of our favorite European hotels and resorts and in Austria, the Hotel Post in Lermoos is one that we especially enjoy. This is our third visit to the Hotel Post Lermoos and it is always a wonderful experience from the moment we arrive until we say our “goodbyes”.

After being welcomed back, our luggage unloaded and our car parked in their garage, we were shown to this year’s room. The first thing you always notice when you walk in the room is the view, it is one you will likely never forget.

View Of The Mountains

View Of The Mountains From The Balcony At Hotel Post Lermoos

All the rooms in the hotel are called suites and are wonderfully spacious, comfortable and have a traditional ambiance that we enjoy. The bathrooms leave nothing to be desired…a tub with a window that opens for a view of the mountains, a cute rubber ducky to float in it, a walk in shower and a separate WC. Our usual room category was full this year so we were given a larger “family room”. It included a separate room with bunk beds that children would love and a walk in closet/dressing room for our luggage.

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The hotel’s room rate includes full board. There is a large breakfast buffet with cooked to order eggs that come from their own farm, as well as a small lunch buffet including soups , salads and fresh fruits. In the afternoon guests can enjoy delicious freshly baked pastries and cakes. Three in the afternoon became known as “cake time” for us and we can both testify to how delicious they were.

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Also included is the evening six course meal with traditional as well as international dishes on the menus. Because of “cake time” we didn’t have all six courses but every single dish that we had was not only beautifully presented, it was delicious.

The large spa has been awarded 3 lilies and 17 points by the Relax Guide. It has indoor and outdoor pools that can be used all year, a laconium, brine, herbal and aromatic steam baths, a Tyrolean sauna and a bio sauna, an ice grotto and a cold water plunge pool. There is also a separate sauna and steam room for families. The spa also has several indoor relaxation areas, some with water beds, as well as outside deck chairs where you can enjoy the fresh mountain air.

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Completely new since our last visit, is a separate pine panorama sauna house and infrared cabin that were built in the garden with views of the Zugspitze and Sonnenspitze mountains.  Can you imagine enjoying the sauna house in the winter, looking out at the snow covered mountains while sitting in front of the open fireplace in its cozy relaxation room. Outside the sauna house there is a new heated brine pool where you can effortlessly float while gazing at the mountains. The new additions really add to the overall spa experience. Of course, there are spa treatment rooms where you can have massages and cosmetic treatments that will have you both feeling good as well as looking great.

If an active lifestyle is more to your liking, the hotel also offers guided hiking and mountain bike tours and other sports programs.

Partenkirschen Historic Building

Beautifully Painted Building In The Historic Partenkirchen Section Of Germany

We are particularly fond of staying in Lermoos for its central location. It is convenient for not only visiting the Tyrol region of Austria but the nearby Bavarian region of Germany. On a nice day, take a scenic drive towards the Bavarian  Alps and visit Garmisch-Partenkirchen, a twenty minute drive away. Originally two separate towns, they were joined into one town in 1936 to host the winter Olympics. We especially like the historic Partenkirchen section with its cobblestone streets and lovely frescoed buildings.

Pilatushaus Oberammergau

The Beautiful Trompe-l’oeil  Pilatushaus In Oberammergau, Germany

From there, it is just a short drive to visit the lovely villages of Oberammergau and Mittenwald before heading back to the hotel for cake and a little relaxing time in the spa. In the pretty village of Oberammergau, most of the homes and businesses are covered with trompe-l’oeil paintings of either religious themes or fairy tales. The town is famous for its Passion Play that has been performed once every ten years by the villagers since 1635. The next performances will be held next year in 2020.

Mittenwald

The Beautiful Bavarian Village Of Mittenwald, Germany

Another “must see” Bavarian village is Mittenwald, twenty minutes east of Garmisch. I believe that it is one of the most charming and picturesque towns in the region.

Neuschwanstein Castle

King Ludwig’s Neuschwanstein Castle

Plan on making another day trip, which is just an just an hour away from the hotel, to the famous Bavarian castles of King Ludwig II. There is the Hohenschwangau, where he grew up, the small but lovely Linderhof Castle with its pretty gardens and the romantic Neuschwanstein castle that inspired Walt Disney to create the Magic Kingdom.  I would suggest ordering tickets online before your visit. Even if you don’t take tours inside the castles, they are worthwhile seeing from the outside.

Nearby Austrian attractions include Innsbruck, the capital of the region, which is about a 45 minutes drive away and the famous Swarovski Crystal World about an hour’s drive from Lermoos.

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We enjoy visiting this beautiful and interesting region of Austria in the fall as it is a wonderful time to enjoy nature at its finest. If you love skiing, then Christmas is a magical time of the year to plan a trip to the area. Whatever the season and no matter the activities you choose to do…whether it is hiking, cycling, skiing or just relaxing in a spa, I think the Tyrol and the Hotel Post Lermoos could well end up being a favorite European destination for you as it has for my husband and I.

 

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Hotel RIVA, On The Shore Of Lake Constance

Hotel RIVA, is an elegant boutique hotel  located in the foothills of the Alps on the shore of beautiful Lake Constance, whose waters are shared by three countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

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Hotel Riva Konstanz Germany

Hotel Riva On The Shore Of Lake Constance, Konstanz, Germany

When staying at the boutique 5-star luxury Hotel RIVA, it is possible to have a hearty German breakfast at the hotel, drive to Switzerland for a light lunch, enjoy a slice of strudel as an afternoon snack in Austria before returning back to the hotel for cocktails on the terrace before dinner.

Promenade Lake Constance

Leafy Promenade Along Lake Constance

Located by a leafy lakefront promenade directly on the shore of Lake Constance, the Riva is a fifteen minute walk away from the medieval old town center of Konstanz (Constance), Germany.

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With its minimalist modern style, the hotel has a very different feel from the many traditional hotels we have visited in Europe. The light and airy hotel is made up of a beautifully renovated Art Nouveau villa and a contemporary annex that share a simple modern elegance. With its striking spiral staircase, floor to ceiling windows that let in lots of natural light and its pale muted interior adorned with splashes of bright color, it will certainly please fans of both interior design and architecture.

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The stylish rooms are extremely comfortable. Our deluxe air conditioned room was one of only six in the Art Nouveau villa and had a direct view of the lake. It had a large entry lined with floor to ceiling lacquered closets and a wonderful bathroom with both a freestanding tub as well as a separate shower.

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The hotel has an tranquil openness that flows from the reception area to the restaurant, bar and lounge and out onto the lovely lakeside terrace. We enjoyed before dinner cocktails on the terrace.

Unfortunately during our stay, the gourmet two star Michelin restaurant Ophelia was not open but we throughly enjoyed our Mediterranean inspired meal in the Art Nouveau villa’s Riva Restaurant at a table with a view out to the lake. After a good night’s sleep on a very comfortable bed, we had an excellent breakfast from the buffet served in the Riva Restaurant.

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If it is a perfectly clear day, head up to the RIVA’s wonderful rooftop pool area that is planted with dwarf Japanese maple trees and different grasses. There you will have fantastic views of not only the sparkling lake but possibly, the distant Alps. The small spa area has a Finnish sauna, an infrared sauna, a steam bath, an ice fountain, a relaxation room, treatment rooms and a small workout area.

The Bodensee (as it is known in German) or Lake Constance is what makes the hotel and city attractive to tourists with lovely lakefront promenades, outdoor cafes and beer gardens. Parts of the old town have remained the same for centuries, especially along the narrow cobbled streets near the gothic cathedral.

Right at the entrance to the harbor is the most photographed and famous landmark in Konstanz. It is the huge rotating stone sculpture “Imperia.” The controversial work of art by artist Peter Lenk was inspired by a satire written by the novelist Balzac. Imperia is skimpily dressed and is holding two tiny naked men, a Pope and an Emperor, in her raised hands.

Imperia by Peter Lenk

Imperia by Peter Lenk At Konstanz Harbor

The region is well known for the many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed, especially boating and cycling on the dedicated bike paths around the entire lake. The hotel is also convenient for travelers wishing to explore delightful German cities such as Meersburg and Lindau as well as those of Austria and Switzerland, two countries that also share the shores of Lake Constance.

Meersburg Upper Town Gate

Meersburg Upper Town Gate

When planning a trip, we all hope we will have perfect weather for our holiday. This was our fourth visit to Lake Constance and on the three previous times in the area it had rained. Each year, I had visions of driving along the shores of Lake Constance with sun sparkling off the lake. I was determined to sit by the lake with a glass of wine and watch the ferries slowly crossing between Switzerland and  Germany and this year I did and it was as lovely as I had imagined.

 

 

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Kaysersberg, One Of The Most Beautiful Villages In France

Kaysersberg, has been designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France”. The timeless charm of this small Alsatian village of cobbled streets, half-timbered buildings and remnants of a medieval castle perched on the hillside should not be missed when traveling the  Route du Vin, the most famous wine route in France.

Kaysersberg

Kaysersberg, One Of The Most Beautiful Villages In France

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Kaysersberg is located in the Alsace region of France, the extreme eastern part of the country that lies at the foot of the Vosges mountains, bordering both Germany and Switzerland and is one of the loveliest and picturesque regions of France.

Known for its Route du Vin, the most famous wine route in France, it is a marked series of roads that meander through picture postcard little wine villages filled with colorful half-timbered buildings and castles perched on their hilltops. The route is just over 100 miles long, starting just west of Strasbourg, with the Rhine river that borders Germany to the east and the Vosges mountains to the west, then heads south towards Colmar and beyond to Mulhouse.

Besides Kaysersberg, there are other must see villages in the area that have also been designated as “most beautiful villages of France”…Eguisheim, Hunawihr and Riquewihr. These fairytale villages and nearby Ribeauvillé, with its three castles and the town of Colmar with its “Petite Venise” old quarter should not be missed. Exploring the Alsace makes you feel like you have been magically whisked into a children’s storybook. Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé are said to be the inspiration of Belle’s hometown in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

Fall is the perfect time to visit the quaint medieval village of Kaysersberg. The summer crowds have gone, grapes are being harvested in the surrounding vineyards and wine festivals are underway. It is a pleasure to stroll the narrow cobbled streets lined with wine cellars offering tastings of riesling, sylvaner, gewürztraminer and pinot noir. Small shops with ironwork signs hanging above their doors sell delicious cakes and pastries that will beckon you in to try their sweet delicacies.

The village is also home to the hotel Le Chambard, near the entrance to the village. You can’t miss the most colorful building in the village adorned with beautiful flower boxes overflowing with geraniums along the windows of its facade. Le Chambard definitely adds a certain French flair to the village. A member of Relais & Châteaux, the small 5-star boutique hotel has been nicely converted from a pretty 18th century mansion.  With spacious contemporary rooms, excellent food that should please most any traveler and views of the Château de Kaysersberg ruins just a short walk up the hill, the hotel makes a nice base for exploring the famous wine road that lies both north and south of the hotel.

Le Chambard’s rooms and suites are all very unique in their decor and offer all the amenities you need for your stay. The hotel also has a small spa with a sauna, steam bath, jacuzzi and pool where you can relax after a day exploring the famous Alsatian wine road.

If you are a “foodie”, like myself, the hotel is worth seeking out as its restaurant, La Table d’Olivier Nasti, has been awarded 2 Michelin stars. The hotel also has a bistro called La Winstub du Chambard  rated by Michelin as a Bib gourmand, that serves excellent local specialties and wine. Unfortunately the gourmet restaurant was closed during our two day stay but we did enjoy the Winstub. Across from the hotel, Chef Nasti also has a restaurant called Flamme & Co where you can enjoy Alsatian flamekueche, also called tarte flambé. It is essentially a thin, light and crispy pizza covered with fromage blanc or cream fraiche, lardons (bacon) and onions that is baked in a wood oven.

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If you have been following Back Road Journal over the years, you may remember that the header photo for my blog was taken in this picturesque region of France years before. Whenever my husband and I are in this part of Europe, we always make plans to visit the Alsace. It is one of our favorite travel destinations where we know we can eat well and enjoy good wine. Even if we are staying in the Black Forest of Germany,  we often make a day trip and cross over the Rhine into France just to enjoy lunch in one of the traditional Alsatian winstubs that serve authentic regional dishes such as choucroute garni, flamekueche or tarte a l’oignon.

It had been too long since we stayed in this lovely region and I’m so glad that we returned for a few days to enjoy the delightful Alsace and the wonderful Route du Vin. I do hope that if you travel to France that you plan to spend a few days to discover this picturesque region where good food and wine are so very much appreciated.

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Bareiss, One Of Europe’s Best Hotels

Bareiss, one of Europe’s best hotels, is situated in the beautiful Black Forest countryside that inspired the Grimm Brother’s Fairytales.

Hotel Bareiss, Black Forest

Hotel Bareiss, One of Europe’s Best Hotels

Located in Baiersbronn-Mitteltal, the area is surrounded by a rolling landscape of farms and small villages at the edge of a forest so dense that it appears black. Picture perfect homes with window boxes ladened with flowers, small village shops selling wood carvings that the area is known for, taverns where you can try the region’s delicious smoked ham along with hearty bread, beer or wine and traditional bakeries where you can enjoy a slice of the famous Black Forest cake make for a memorable holiday.

The Black Forest

The Black Forest, Land Of Fairytales

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If I was asked what my favorite hotel in the Black Forest was, without hesitation, it would be Hotel Bareiss. The hotel has a tradition of excellence that my husband and I have not found elsewhere. It strives to be the best and has won numerous awards including 3 stars in the Michelin Red Guide,  4 lilies and 19 out of 20 points in the Relax Guide, 5 out of 5 diamonds in Varta-Führer 2019 and it won the Prix Villégiature Awards 2012 for the Best Resort in Europe just to name a few.

With so many awards, you might wonder what to expect if you stay at Hotel Bareiss. From my experience, I believe you will find absolute perfection. Very different from a large corporate hotel, Bareiss is charming, friendly and welcoming. You immediately sense why the hotel has such a fine reputation from the moment you arrive.

Hotel Bareiss

Hotel Bareiss

You are greeted at the front entrance by a waiting doorman who quickly unloads your bags to deliver to your room minutes later. Upon entering the hotel’s reception area and welcomed by hostesses dressed in beautiful dirndls, you feel a genuine warmth that continues throughout your visit. Every member of the friendly staff, many working here for decades, are eager to help make your stay a special one.

Bareiss Family

Hermann Bareiss, Son Hannes And His Wife Britta With  Little Hanna And Heidi

This was my husband’s and my third stay at this three generation family owned hotel, now overseen by Hermann Bareiss, his son Hannes, his daughter-in-law Britta and Kai Schmalzried, his nephew. You will more than likely encounter them during the course of your stay, stopping by to ask how your day was or how you are enjoying your meal.

The hotel has a choice of beautiful yet cozy rooms, each individually decorated. Our room this year was a rotunda apartment in the Landhaus (country house) with a wrap around terrace. The romantic room has everything you could wish for including a comfortable sofa, pretty writing desk with a mini table with all the hotel information, a fully adjustable king size bed and a slipper bathtub and separate rain shower in the large bathroom.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Bareiss is perhaps best known for its outstanding food and the room rate includes half board. Delicious meals are offered from early morning all the way through to a midnight snack in the bar, if you so desire. There are five hotel guest dining rooms and three à la carte restaurants. One is the 3 star Michelin rated Restaurant Bareiss, which the famous guide book deems “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” No matter where you dine, the best ingredients are used not only in the gourmet restaurant but also in dishes served in the other restaurants.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Outside the Bareiss complex, the hotel also offers meals at the pretty Forellenhof Buhlbach which is situated in a nature reserve just a short drive away. The restaurant serves fresh fish from its own fish farm.  A 45 minute walk away from the hotel, there is also a traditional hiking cabin named Sattelei. You will often find hikers here from the local villages joining hotel guests for drinks and traditional Black Forest hot and cold snacks.

The hotel has a wonderful Sauna World complex with indoor and outdoor pools, saunas, whirlpools, steam rooms, massage rooms and rooms for quiet relaxation. There are also hiking trails through the forest and lots of activities to work off some of the calories you consume each day. But be warned, the hotel also provides a delicious afternoon cake buffet to enjoy as part of the half board that is included in your stay. We were on holiday so we had to indulge in the pampering environment and delicacies just a little.

While you might think that a hotel like this would be only appropriate for adults, that is certainly not the case. The hotel has created a little paradise for children that makes adults wish they were young again. There is a treehouse, a fairytale room and a circus wagon as well as an adventure and water playground and a house of games.

Bareiss is the perfect base for exploring this picturesque region by car and we were there while the Bareiss Classic was being held. Just imagine how much fun it would be to drive the winding roads of the Black Forest in your own vintage car. Whether you want to discover the delightful soundings found on the back roads, hike in the fresh air, relax in one of the pools or enjoy a multi course meal, I believe your desires will be met at Bareiss.

View From Bareiss Room Terrace

View From Our Terrace Of The Village Of Bairesbronn-Mitteltal

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Bareiss is special for many reasons but for my husband and I, it is the wonderful and heartfelt care that each guest receives during a stay…nothing seems impossible. From the warm greeting with glasses of Champagne upon arrival, delicious and elegantly served meals, entertainment in the bar, sweets left at turndown service, and a beautiful and relaxing spa area, Bareiss has it all. Hopefully, we will have the good fortune to return to one of our favorite hotels again sometime in the future. I hope one day you will get a chance to visit this memorable hotel and enjoy it a much as we have.

 

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BollAnts Hotel In The Rhineland-Palatinate Region Of Germany

BollAnts, a spa hotel in Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany, has a motto “relax, reflect, rejuvenate“.

BollAnts Spa Hotel

BollAnts, A Spa Hotel In Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

A three day stay at BollAnts, a top rated spa hotel in the Rhineland-Palatinate region of Germany, was just what my husband and I needed after more than 24 hours of travel from our home. It was déjà vu for us as we were once again ready to start our fall vacation in Germany just as a major hurricane was predicted to strike our area. This time it was Hurricane Dorian that had us securing our home, changing our airline tickets and flying just a day before Melbourne, Florida airport closed.

Very few travelers, mostly wine lovers and spa goers, even know about the Naheland area of the Rhineland-Palatinate where BollAnts is located. The hotel lies on the banks of the Nahe river in the village of Bad Sobernheim, Germany and is just an hour’s drive from the Frankfurt Airport where we landed. The countryside lies between of the Mosel and Rhine rivers and is very picturesque with rolling hills that are covered with orchards and stepped vineyards in one of Germany’s smallest wine growing regions.

BollAnts has had guests visiting the hotel for over a hundred years looking to improve their wellness. In recent years, the spa hotel has been awarded 3 lilies and 17 points in the Relax Guide so we decided that it would make an ideal spot to start this year’s fall holiday.

Bollants Reception

Bollants Reception Lounge

The hotel is like a little village with several different styled lodges…Jugendstihl, Bauhaus, historic half-timbered as well as contemporary, to choose from when booking a room. We reserved a suite in the contemporary Halenberg guest house that had direct access to the spa. Our stylish modern room had a separate living area, bedroom, large bathroom with a bath as well as a separate rain head shower, a separate WC and a nice dressing room closet that held all our luggage for the trip. The room also had a large balcony with a lovely view of the  gardens.

Half board is included in the room rate and we started our mornings with a breakfast buffet in the Villa restaurant where we also had dinner on our first night. For an additional charge, we also had dinner in the Mediterranean inspired Hermannshof restaurant on our second night and in the hotel’s one star Michelin rated Jungborn restaurant on our third evening. Jungborn will be featured in another post in the future. I must say the food was excellent at each restaurant.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Although breakfast leaves you with nothing to be desired, if your are hungry in the afternoon you can enjoy a light lunch outside under the shady trees and gazebo or if you are in the spa, there is the Spa Bistro where you can have small snacks, cakes, juices and teas in the afternoon. Last but not least, there is also the hotel’s Fireside Bar where you can have a glass of wine and cocktails as well as small plates such as tarte flambé, wraps and salads.

BollAnts spa is a wonderful place to relax. It includes four saunas, two steam baths, an outdoor jacuzzi, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool in the hotel’s pretty park as well as a roof top pool. There are many different relaxation rooms with lots of books to read or cozy corners where you can take an afternoon nap after coming back from a hike in the surrounding area. I believe there is something to please everyone when it comes to the hotel’s spa facilities.

All in all, the first three days of our trip went by all too quickly and we were soon having to say our goodbyes. I must say that in the short time we were at BollAnts, we relaxed and reflected on how lucky we were that our home in Florida has remained safe from the storm. After exhausting days of preparing our home for a potential hurricane, we left BollAnts feeling rejuvenated just like their motto suggested.

Hurricane Dorian Projection

Hurricane Dorian Projection By NOAA

Our European holiday has just begun and we are looking forward to this year’s travels in Germany, France and Austria. I hope you will enjoy following along on this year’s trip.

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