Spain Trip, Part I: Mallorca

October 12, 2010

Hillside Mallorca town of Deià

Spain had been on our list to visit for awhile when we decided it would be the perfect place to spend our honeymoon... until we had to nix that idea in light of the whole moving-overseas-immediately-after-the-wedding thing. Now that we are more centrally located to all the travel we want to do, we figured there was no time like the present - especially after our first German summer left us missing, uh, an actual summer. Those few weeks of faint-inducing heat didn't count, not to mention all the months of rain and thunderstorms. Coming from CA, it was quite a disappointment.

The view from our balcony...

September seemed to be the last of the nice weather before Autumn officially hit, so we decided we should take advantage of the weather while we could. While there were several places we wanted to see, we were able to get our 11-day trip down to two stops: Mallorca and Barcelona. For the week on the island, we knew we wanted to relax and not do a whole heck of a lot (which is what defines a honeymoon, after all). We decided on the small, hillside town of Deià and when we arrived, we couldn't have been more thrilled with our choice.

The ground's sheep that we awoke to daily with gently clanking bells and baa-aaa-ing. Better than any alarm clock - ever.

The nine-room, converted farmhouse, family-run hotel we stayed at was magical. Sure, we could've gone to the swanky hotel in the middle of town for a more '5-star' experience, but then we would've missed the charm of this place. The variety of animals on the grounds - including sheep, donkeys and one very sweet dog - and the location just outside of the city made it a truly special place. The sweeping views of Deià, the surrounding mountains and the Mediterranean didn't hurt either. One needn't ever leave the hotel, and we didn't, save for one rainy day we decided to sight-see. 

The windy, scary road out to Cap de Formentor

After the rain started to fall in the midst of our morning sunbathing one day, we decided to hit the road and see a few of the sights on Mallorca. First stop was the very long, frightenly-narrow road out to Cap de Formentor - a lighthouse on the very north-eastern tip of the island. The dramatic cliffs and nearly 360-degree views of the Mediterranean were worth the hour-long, white-knuckled drive out. 

The amazing natural formations at the Coves d'Arta

Our second stop to the Coves d'Arta was on the far south-east bit of the island, and let me just say, it was worth it! The stalactites and stalagmites were astounding - and knowing how many millions of years in the making it was made it even more impressive. The gorgeous turquoise water that greets you as you leave the caves just added to the amazing setting.

Our drive to the other side of the island was not only a great sight-seeing excursion, but it also reaffirmed our choice of where to stay. The eastern side of the island was packed with touristy spots, boxy hotels, souvenir shops galore and kids with floaty mattresses by the dozens. For a quiet, relaxing holiday, I highly recommend the resorts tucked away in the mountains - it is the definition of 'getting away from it all.' 

The salad from one of our many gourmet meals

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about Mallorca was the food. Being a major holiday destination, we didn't think we wouldn't be eating well, but we had no idea that we'd be eating incredible, gourmet meals every day! Flavors were inventive, presentations were beautiful and the variety was impressive. 

Daily breakfast of homemade jams and yogurt, fresh-squeezed juices... oh yeah, and a sea view

Coming from SF, this is something we've really missed since moving to Germany. Not that we don't have great food in our now-home, but it's different. I suppose we'll just have to travel more to satisfy not only our desire to see new places, but to sample more of Europe's impressive cuisine. Everything in Deià was amazing!

Finally...a proper honeymoon!

It was with a heavy heart we said goodbye to Mallorca, particularly our little bit of the island we had come to love. It had changed me from an ADD traveler who was always looking to the next thing on the agenda to being happy laying in the sun for days on end, the only sound to be heard: Carla Bruni on the iPod. Ahhh... Deià was a magical spot and we look forward to returning. Perhaps an annual trip is in order...

'Truy' - aka 'naughty' - the hotel's vicious guard dog  ;)
We'll miss you too!

While we were winging our way to mainland Spain, I was already missing the island life. Little did I know, we were headed to what could now be my favorite European city...

..more to come!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische


October 03, 2010

Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen - thank you for marrying Ludwig & giving us Oktoberfest!

Going a bit out of order, I'm going to start with the most recent stop on our two-week holiday -  München for the 200th year of Oktoberfest! I admit, I was skeptical about making the four-hour drive all the way to a beer-drinking festival (which admittedly, is not my favorite way to imbibe) without any tent reservations, not even knowing if we'd make it in anywhere to taste the special brew. Since we lucked out on a nice, last-minute hotel only a 10 minute walk from Weisn, I said why not!

The Ochsenbraterei tent - our decided target for the morning wait

We decided to scope out the fest the night before to get an idea of the layout, where we should line up in the morning, etc. (after our four-hour drive there, after our angst-filled flight from Barcelona through a thunder & lightning storm). Upon seeing the amazing 'tent' structures - which were not tents at all, but massive structures with Disneyland-like animatronics on them - I started to get really excited about the whole experience.

Tent filling up quickly as people claim their tables

While my enthusiasm waned slightly as we stood in a smoke-filled line, packed like sardines, waiting to be let into the tent for a chance to claim a table, when we ran in and secured a table (in a non-smoking tent, thank goodness!), I felt my anticipation return. The wait was long (hours & hours) and cold (hence why they're called 'tents' - no insulation), so we decided to fill our bellies with something warm from the pre-beer service menu: Weißwurst, traditional Bavarian breakfast sausage. If only we had brought some cards, like everyone around us had...

Our waitress had guns of steel!

Luckily, noon finally came and the mayor finally tapped the first barrel and beer was finally served! The servers running around the tent carrying liters and liters (and liters!) to serve entire tables at once blew my mind. I tried picking up three glasses we had at one time (see below) just to see and could only hold them up for a minute. These people deserve the 30K they earn during the fest!

Me lagging in beer consumption...

The next few hours went rather quickly after we finished our first liters . . . and things got a bit fuzzier. Being the 200th anniversary of the fest, the special brew made this year had an even higher alcohol content than previous years. And while I had been in 'training' at home with pints, liters became a whole other ballgame. 

I can't say I entirely remember getting from our table back to our hotel that evening (that's right - we didn't even last all day), but I do remember being appalled during one trip to the toilet at the fact they were down from four - to one! One toilet for 2,500 people?! If I didn't already know the men's only had a trough for relieving themselves, I would've stormed the little boys room and gone there. But, I wasn't drunk enough for that. 

Parades, rides, food - so much more to Oktoberfest than just beer

After more than 12 hours of sleep, we awoke the following day ready, if not a little queasy, to check out the rest of the Oktoberfest celebration. We were greeted by a massive parade going by our hotel as we walked to Weisn, complete with bands, horse-drawn carriages and acrobats. Unfortunately, we were also greeted by the horribly-situated roasted fish tent as soon as walked into the fest, which was the worst on a hungover stomach. Taking it easy for the day meant we could just meander the fest and see all the things we missed from being tent-bound the previous day. 

While rides were out of the question, souvenir shopping, visiting other tents and just people watching was plenty to fill the day. It was adorable to see families in which every member was decked out in traditional dirndls and lederhosen. We swore when we return in the coming years, we must invest in the appropriate, festive attire - Germans take this very seriously!

Glazed and chocolate fruit - one of the many fest food wonders

After enjoying Hendl (half a roasted chicken), chocolate-covered fruit, flavored nuts, a half-meter sausage and a wonderful new discovery called a Dampfnudeln, - a large, warm bread dumpling smothered in vanilla sauce and cinnamon - we were officially psyched to come back next year (as if the tent experience hadn't already sealed the deal!). The cherry on the sundae was the late-night people-watching. I have never seen so many girls on the ground crying or young men stumbling about in a complicated dance to stay upright. The entertainment value of people-watching alone is worth attending Oktoberfest!

Chandeliers in the Hofbrau tent

So until next year, thanks for a great time Oktoberfest! 

Stay tuned for more posts on our September holiday. Next up...Mallorca!

*Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische