Tag Archives: road trip

Alpine Road Trip, Part Two

Usually, Matt and I plan a trip to the minute; both of us are Type A planners and having no itinerary for a trip is not an option.  We plan in “down time” (of course we do) and pad all our timetables with at least 20 minutes on each end because we’re not new and we travel with four kids.  But it’s a rare thing to not have a plan at all for a full afternoon on a trip with Matt and I.

Thank the gods for small blessings, though.

During our tour of Neuchwanstein Castle, we realized that not far from us was a town called Tegelberg, where a cable car would take us up the mountain for some really cool views and an alpine coaster (which we loved in Chamonix!).  We cabbed it from Neuchwanstein over to Tegelberg and it was one of the most amazing things we’ve done in all our travels yet!

We took the cable car up the mountain (not nearly as steep or dramatic as the one to Aiguille du Midi, but really amazing anyway).  At the base of the mountain it had been warmish – probably in the low 50s.  At the top, though, there was snow everywhere and we had somehow crossed a threshold into an alpine wonderland.

Looking in one direction we could see green fields surrounding this huge, calm lake, and then when you turned to look in the other direction, it was just snow-capped mountains and evergreens.  The contrast was astounding.

We had lunch at the cafe at the top of the mountain – more wiener schnitzel and fries, and some good German beer – and took a walk around.  There were lots of hiking trails heading up into the mountains, but unfortunately none of us was dressed for a wintery, snow-covered path and we had to skip the hike.  We did see two para-gliders take off though.  They just ran off the edge of the mountain and floated away.  It looked so serene; I’d never considered trying that, but now that I’ve seen it, I think I’d like to give it a go one day.

We took another cable car ride back to the bottom of the mountain and we all had a round on the alpine coaster.  So interesting to see how my children react differently to being in charge of their own speed on this sort of thing – it’s funny to see who the daredevils are and who is more cautious. (And it’s not who you’d expect.)

The next day we got back in the van and headed to Stuttgart.  Matt had work there for a few days, so his parents and the kids and I did some touring on our own.  On the first day, we visited the Mercedes Benz Museum, which was in walking distance from our hotel.  Although I am not really a car person by any stretch of the imagination, this was one of the best museums I’ve visited!

The museum was certainly centered around the cars, but it traced the evolution from the very earliest horseless carriages up to the present day, and tied the automobiles into what was happening across Germany and around the world at the time they were made. 

We each had an audio tour which had three listening options: a more technical one for the car fanatics, a general one related to the history of the time, and a children’s one that simplified everything and told a few stories about the cars and the time periods in which they were built.  It was a fantastic learning experience and the actual cars were pretty amazing too.

One of the funny highlights of our time in Stuttgart was that our hotel room had a sauna in it, which the kids loved!  They’d never been in one before, and they couldn’t stay in very long, but they loved using it and now we all want one in our house!

We were also lucky enough while we were in Stuttgart to have dinner two nights at friends’ houses; Matt has work colleagues based there who hosted us two nights in a row and it was really great to take a break from restaurants, hang out with friends, and just let the kids play.  Plus, both nights we had great views of the city and some stunning sunsets!

We had one more stop on our road trip – Colmar, France – and I loved it so much it’s getting it’s own post!  Coming soon.  (Part one of the Alpine Road Trip!)

Adventures in England: Old Sarum & Stonehenge

Old Sarum and Stonehenge

With good friends of ours from D.C. visiting, we wanted to take a little trip through England and see some new places!  Our friends spent a few days in London on their own, so we had time to branch out a bit and explore some other sites we’d all really wanted to see.

We rented a giant van that could fit all of us and went on a road trip across England.  The drive was part of the fun — it was so absolutely great to spend uninterrupted hours with friends we miss!

road trip

Our destination was Cornwall, but we planned a few stops on the way at Old Sarum and Stonehenge.  We have an English Heritage membership, so admission into both places was free for our family.  Our friends bought a 2-week membership for less than the cost of admission into one of those sites, so it was a great investment.  We have loved having this membership and have tried hard to make use of it whenever possible!

Old Sarum fields

Old Sarum is an Iron Age hill fort on the Salisbury plain.  It is built up on a huge hill with an  impressive wood bridge you have to cross to enter, and overlooks this vast and gorgeous plain stretching out all around it.  The ruins of the castle were really cool and we were able to climb and explore freely. 

climbing at old sarum

There were also archery demonstrations, which the kids loved.  It was all a bit humbling too, to stand in the ruins of a castle built 1000 years ago by William the Conqueror.  We spent a few hours there, then had a picnic lunch and headed off for Stonehenge.

archery at old sarum

When you visit Stonehenge, you have to purchase tickets for a specific time slot.  We bought ours in advance, which meant we didn’t have to wait in line when we got there.  We got the audio tour devices too, so we’d have a better understanding of what we were seeing.  We only got a few though, not one for every person.  My kids tend to play with the headphones more than actually listen to the audio tour, so my advice is to get one or two for the adults and then once you’ve listened to the description, relay what you’re seeing to the kids in your own words.

The actual monument is about a mile away from the Stonehenge visitor center, and there are buses running in between shuttling visitors back and forth, or you have the option to walk across an open field to the site.  We chose to walk — we’d been in the car long enough and everyone was happy to get out and let the kids run.

walking to stonehenge

I’d heard Stonehenge wasn’t really that cool, that it was right off a main road and you could see traffic, that there were other, more authentic and less touristy sites that were similar and better.  I found it to be completely amazing though — far more impressive than I expected. 


First, the size of the stone plinths is hard to really describe (look how small the people are in the picture above, and they’re standing right next to the stones!).  They are massive and placed so precisely; it’s very difficult to imagine how they were ever put into place without the use of major machinery.  Second, they are ancient to the point of being difficult to comprehend; they’ve been standing there for about 5,000 years.  And finally, the capstones that lay on top like a bridge from one column to another, are fitted together like legos — a bump on top of each vertical stone fits smoothly and precisely into a divot on the horizontal stone.  It was astonishingly huge and impressive and gorgeous. 

everyone at Stonehenge

Both these sites were so unique and so interactive and active — there was no sitting around and the kids were always able to move and run and explore (although you can’t touch Stonehenge, but it’s surrounded by a massive open field perfect for running around in).  And all the kids were impressed by both places, from the 5-year old right up to the 11-year olds, and all the children in between.   I think it’s so good for them to get a sense of history as often as possible and both these sites absolutely delivered in that regard.

After Stonehenge, we loaded back into the van to head to our ultimate destination: Cornwall!


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