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Sunday, February 14, 2016

romantic castles...the perfect place to share a meal

On this day, the day dedicated to love and romance (although why isn't every day?), I want to show you some extra-special castles I've been touring lately. At each one I thought, "isn't this romantic? where is great guy when I need him?" 

So, I hope you enjoy four of my favourite castles where sharing a meal with someone you love will create a memory to last.

1) On a hill overlooking the quaint little town of Stromberg, 40 minutes from Frankfurt and a couple of miles above the Rhine, is a white castle called the Stromburg. 

The Stromburg has been owned by the Austrian, Johann Lafer, since 1994. Lafer received a Michelin Guide star in 2006, has his own cooking show, and actually lives in the castle.

Here, in a hidden herb garden, behind the main castle, and surrounded by ruins from ancient fortress walls, you can satisfy your gourmet fancy and intrigue your spirit, by dining in complete privacy.

The herb garden also hosts a chef's 'kräutermenu' (herb menu), where an entire meal is planned focusing solely on the herbs grown under the watchful eyes of the castle walls.

Going back around the central tower you make your way into the main building, where more gourmet options await.

The grounds of the Stromburg overlook the valley, and is the setting for many a wedding and cocktail party.


My dates on this particular evening were two of my girlfriends, and we were treated exceptionally well...

enjoying roasted duck, halibut filet and my favourite, deer schnitzel...topped by a cuvee royale.

The Lafer kitchen team prepared delicious seasonal menus for guests in the Bistro d'Or and the LeVal d'Or restaurants, keeping very busy.

And through the castle's hallways, photos of special guests and other lovebirds who've dined here, seem to say, "C'était vraiment super!"

2) For something quite a bit different...and just a touch more rustic, why not picnic on an island castle set smack dab in the middle of the Rhine.

I have always loved driving by and seeing this lonely-looking perfect creation, the centre of everyone's attention. It is located between Bacharach and Kaub, two lovely towns on either side of the Rhine, in the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. 

Here, you step onto a small ferryboat, which carries you over to a, at this of year, very small island. Burg Pfalzgrafenstein waits patiently for each visitor.

Once the perfect location to collect taxes from any ship wanting to travel further up the Rhine, the burg (castle) now is open year-round for visitors - except when exceptionally high water makes docking at the island impossible.

The castle really was like a village inside. In the centre stands a tall keep, with the surrounding wall housing four floors of rooms.

Built by King Ludwig IV in 1327, the central tower stood on its own for decades before the rest of the ringed wall was erected.

Tiny bridges connect the outer hallways to the keep.

As I wandered through the narrow hallways and low doors, I realized my dream of becoming a castle princess would never come true. At 6'3" there was not one area in the castle, other than in the outer courtyard where I could fully stand upright. Obviously my ancenstry does not include royalty.

Here, the head officer's quarters...

and the loo, which conveniently hangs directly over the rushing current below. Personally, I would be too terrified of falling through, to ever relax enough to use this particular 'washroom'.

Which is a nice segway...too romance. The Burg Pfalzgrafenstein is the perfect location to have a picnic, either within the courtyard...

or outside surrounded on all sides by the mightly Rhine.

With very few people, and a view to die for, this picnic spot is a secret that I'm only giving away to you.

 It's my new favourite place.

3) If you and your love like to combine a bit of nature with your romance, like we do, then walking the famous Rheinsteig hiking trail (Stage #4) to Burg Schwarzenstein should be on your to-do list.

At this castle on the Hessen side of the Rhine, just ten minutes from Rüdesheim, you can find the perfect spot to relax after a day of hiking...for the afternoon, the evening or a couple of days.

Amidst the Riesling vineyards, overlooking the Rhine, is the restaurant and grill, along with a modern hotel complex tucked away just behind.

Low-key, but modern and elegant, the grill offers scrumptious gourmet events paired with local wine-tastings to make any romantic weekend perfect fun.

Personally, I just loved the style, reminding of me of funky pubs back home in Canada...except for the castle part!

4) And last but not least, what is more romantic than just spontaneously treating yourself to a decandent dessert...and champagne?

We looked no further than just out our front door, in the centre of Bingen am Rhein, at the Burg Klopp (Klopp Castle).

Inside, though the maitre'd was not in the best of moods, I loved the interior fusion of old and new - the rough brick and soft draping gives the restaurant and oh-so-romantic feeling.

Not your typical chocolate cake, but exceptionally delicious, we 'turned' on the candle and celebrated a bit of pre-valentines romance, mid-afternoon.

And enjoyed the superb view of the entrance to the Upper Middle Rhine Valley...where the river narrows, the water turns into a fierce torrent, and the cliffs strain to stay upright against the pressure. Can you say romantic? Yes please.

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