Looking for somewhere with great historical culture, good food and hospitality? There's no need to travel far. If you don't know much about the area of Holland and Germany that runs along the Lower Rhine, visit www.coolbreaks.com and plan your 'straycation'
Board at Stanstead, buckle your seat belt, order a coffee and within minutes you will be touching down at Weeze Airport. Find yourself in the Lower Rhine Valley in the time it takes you to commute to work, or visit relatives.
You will be spoilt with a choice of good quality family run hotels and spas, at prices you would expect to pay in a dull hotel chain in the UK. You will find hospitality the norm in this region. For a beautiful setting and spa facilities go to Park Janssen Lake Spa www.see.park.de and if you prefer something unique then go to Hertefeld Castle.
Picture: Hertefeld Castle
At Hertefeld Castle, a fourteenth century Knight’s Castle, you will be a guest of Count and Countess Eulenburg, whose ancestors have lived here for seven centuries. Rooms are eclectically and stylishly designed and furnished by the Count and Countess. You will find the atmosphere personal and friendly and if you don’t want to get up early for breakfast you won’t have to. If you are planning a romantic break, choose from a selection of distinctive apartments in the 5 hectare gardens and disappear from the world. www.castle-ruin.com
LVR-Archaeological Park Xanten, formerly Colonia Ulpia Traiana
See how the Romans lived in this partially rebuilt archaeological park, which was named after Emperor Traiana who granted the town its’ colony status during the 1st century AD. Follow in the Romans’ footsteps, through the gates of the colony wall, along the grid patterned streets to the hostelry with the only bathhouse in the world with a working heating system, as it was in antiquity. See furnished living rooms, decorated with colourful murals. Climb the steps of the partially recreated temple then go sit in the amphitheatre and imagine gladiators fighting in front of a baying audience.
Before leaving visit the LVR-Roma Museum that houses more treasure in the form of artefacts chronologically arranged and recounting the story of the rise and fall of Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Be taken aback when you see a section of a Corinthian temple column painted in bright colours, as it would have been originally, befitting of the hedonistic age it belongs. By now you might just feel the breath of Emperor Traiana on the back of your neck.
LVR Archaeological Park Xanten is a must for anyone interested in history and there are plenty of activities for the whole family. To find out more about the numerous weekly events, activities and annual classical music festival visit www.apx.de
Visit one of the working windmills in Kalkar, even better visit the one next to Diebels Brewery in Kalkar where there is a microbrewery and after you have stood next to the sails of the mill and looked across the vista, you can take a tour around the micro brewery and sample a glass of the finished product..
If wine is more to your liking go to Grashoek and visit KapelheshHof Wine and Golf. Here you will be able to try the various award winning wines made on the premises and once relaxed go play a round of golf or have a golf lesson. Then go have lunch and enjoy more award winning wines. The owner has a passionate for his vineyard and his wines and his son has a passion for golf. What a great combination.
If like me you have visions of becoming a chocalatier but your attempts at chocolate making fail miserably, you should visit Nijmegen and take a lesson in bonbon making. You will learn about where that wonderful stuff comes from and why it was once used as a form of currency (and why the flowers have to be hand pollinated). Within what seems like a few minutes, you will be leaving with your own professionally wrapped little creations. Your marzipan filled heart might resemble a devilled kidney but at least you will have the basic knowledge to master your craft.
S.Hertogenbosch (Den Bosh)
Visit this vibrant and lively historic town built around a market square, with an enormous choice of good restaurants, where diners spill onto the busy streets. If you go in September you will be able to sample specialities from many of these at the Den Bosh culinary festival. If you like food, you will love this lively 3 day event held in a huge elegantly dressed marquee where 15,000 people dine and listen to live music under the wings of magnificent gothic St. John’s cathedral.
To enjoy this lovely town, stay in one of the hotels on the market square, The Golden Tulip Hotel Central is a family run hospitable and comfortable hotel. www.goldentuliphotelcentral.nl Try the local choux pastry delicacy a boschh bol,which is basically a giant profiterole but with more chocolate. To work it off, take a guided tour by foot, or take it easy and explore the town via a cruise on the canals that run through and underneath this lovely town.
Picture: St John’s Cathedral .
If you’ve never considered the Lower Rhine Valley covering Germany and Holland as an area rich in culture or for its gastronomy go to www.coolbreaks.com and plan to be surprised.
Written by Hazel Nevard