Black Forest

It feels like a very long time since it was just the four of us going away.  (Of course, in reality, that was only last Summer, when we visited the Amalfi Coast, but I seem to have lost a little perspective of time).  This is why,  this was the holiday I was looking forward to most this year.

We’d planned out a very kid centred four days, but made sure there was enough to keep the adults entertained too.  We used our BA companion voucher to fly in and out of Stuttgart Airport.  From there we rented a car through SixT, and were happy to be given a brand new 1series BMW.  The route we had in mind was a clockwise drive round the Black Forest, (Schwarzwäld).

Following an hour and a half drive, our first stop was to the town of Konstanz, on the shores of Lake Constance and the River Rhine.  From here it’s possible to get a boat to Austria and Switzerland.  Instead, we took some time to have lunch in the harbour at the German Konzil Gaststatten Restaurant, then walked around to have some ice cream and watch the end of the Brazil vs Costa Rica World Cup match.

Tip: most of the signs are in German, without English translation, it is therefore worth trying to learn the German names of the places you want to visit.

Our hotel for the night was a further hour’s drive away. We’d picked the slightly remote Höhengasthaus Kolmenhof because it came up as a highly rated hotel near to Triberg. The sense of remoteness was what we were looking for, and it also meant that we saved significant driving time on the second day.  We consciously didn’t stay in Freiberg on this occasion, for these reasons.  However, as it turned out, this hotel carried a lot more significance than we first realised.  It is situated on the hydrological source of the River Danube, (Donauquelle), which is actuaally it’s major tributary, the River Berg.  For me, visiting a source or mouth of a river, always holds a special spiritual meaning.

It reminds me of the Vedantic teaching about the importance of remaining in the present.  That, above the strength and stillness of the mountain from which it came, or the vastness of the ocean to which it is going, the most important point in the course of a river at any given time, is where it is now.  The way in which it navigates it’s current terrain, determines where it will flow to next.  For my husband, this meant the first opportunity to have a Black Forest gâteau (Schwarzwäld Kirschtorte).  (It was a good job that he did, as the chance didn’t come up again, and I wouldn’t have heard the end of it).

In addition to this, this hotel was also one of the most baby and child friendly hotels we’ve stayed in.  It has indoor and outdoor play areas, and our room had a baby changing mat and baby bath.  If we’d had more time, there were a lot of good quality hiking and cross country skiing trails that we would have loved to have explored.

But, like the river, we too, had to move on.  The next day, we stuck to our plan and made our way North.  Our first stop was to the walking trail around the Triberg waterfall (Triberger Wasserfälle), which is Germany’s highest.  From there, we went in search of cuckoo clocks.  At the Weltgroße Kuckucksuhr, our girls were fascinated by both the internal mechanics and half hourly cuckoo call of the ‘original’ world’s largest cuckoo clock’.  Apparently bigger cuckoo clocks have been built since this one, but this was the first big one!  This inspired us to buy one for ourselves, which we did, from The House of 1000 Clocks (Haus Der 1000 Uhren).

After lunch in Triberg, we got back on the road to Gutach.  Here, we had specially come to take the kids to the Park For The Senses, (Park Mit Allen Sinnen).  The 2km barefoot trail, is designed to take you over various terrain, broken up by sensory pavilions which stimulate one sense at a time.  It was a great way to develop the children’s interest in nature, and increase their awareness of their surroundings.

Our next stop was just two minutes up the road.  The 3,773ft Summer toboggan run at the Sommerrodelbahn in Gutach, gave us some light relief and a quick thrill, as we came rolling down the hillside.

After this, it was time to make our way to our hotel for the next two nights in the spa town of Baden Baden.  We stayed at the Dorint Hotel, from where we were able to walk to all the sites around town, which is something we love doing whenever we are in a new city.  The one thing that we didn’t get to do that we really wanted to, was to visit one of the famous thermal spas, because the age limit for their use seemed to be seven years old.  The major spas do offer a child minding service, but we decided not to make use of them on this trip… leaving us with an excellent excuse to come back!


As a couple, this was our first trip away together, without our kids.  With my husband, almost forgetting to get an up to date ESTA, having changed his passport recently, I nearly left him behind too.  Anyway, after a last minute panicked application the night before, he got himself authorised for travel, and joined two of our friends and me, as planned.

We only had three nights, and knew that this was likely to be a one off holiday without the children, so we set out to make the most of it.

We stayed at SLS Brickell, which is a stylish but slightly kinky hotel, complete with a ‘Naughty Lovers’ kit on the mini bar, and a mirror on the ceiling.  The first night, we had dinner booked at Bazaar Mar by José Andrés, which was conveniently located within our hotel.  Our waiter, Trevor, promised us ‘an experience’, and that’s exactly what he delivered.  After dinner, we went to the Sugar Rooftop Bar which is on the 40th floor of the EAST, Miami Hotel.  The lift that takes you up, offers a funky photo opportunity, and the views of the city at night are pretty cool.

The next day, we decided to go to Miami Beach.  This happened to be Memorial Day weekend in the USA, and South Beach was gearing up for a massive party, including a military airshow.  The weather, however had other plans.  Subtropical Storm Alberto was moving in, but before it could unleash it’s torrent, we took a lovely 3km walk from South Pointe Park along the shore.  Although it was relatively early in the day, the beach was a lot quieter than I’d expected, and so the walk was actually quite relaxing.  Along the way, my husband picked up a small collection of shells, as a gift for our children.

Just as the rains came, we reached our intended exit point off the beach, and we made our way onto the corner of Collins Ave and 15th St, to Taquiza, for some truly delicious blue masa based tacos and Mexican street food.  For the rest of the afternoon, we hung out at the Delano Beach Club, which is part of the same chain as the hotel we were staying in.  The club kindly gave us a cabana to shelter from the rain, where we drank cocktails and played Monopoly Deal.

Tip: we’ve often benefited from using facilities of sister hotels of the one we’ve booked to stay in.  It has the potential to give you another comfortable base to experience a different part of the city, and sometimes hotel chains offer free transfers from one site to another.

After taking an Uber back to our hotel, we changed our dinner reservations from Cantina La Veinte, opting to stay in our hotel again, to eat at Fi’Lia.  We only made this change of plans to stay out of the rain for a bit, but we were more than happy with the food.  We then went for a drink after, at the peculiarly named, locally recommended, Blackbird Ordinary.

The rain persisted on and off throughout the third day, but we refused to be imprisoned by it.  There’s a free trolley bus from Downtown to Little Havana, and we’d heard this neighbourhood was worth a visit.  We’d earmarked a small local Cuban burger place that we wanted to try for lunch, but after struggling to find it for 10-15mins in the downpour, we picked up a cab and proceeded to the Dolphin Outlet Mall.  This was the day of the UEFA Champions League Final, and three out of four of us are lifelong Liverpool FC fans, so we watched the game in a sports bar, while our fourth member shopped.  In actual fact, I left early, returning to Brickell to have a deep tissue massage in the Spa at the Conrad Hotel.  The disappointing result in the final mitigated my decision.

Our final dinner, was one of the highlights of the trip.  We had reserved our table at Zuma one month in advance.  The staff were incredibly attentive, and actually enhanced the food, which was incredible in it’s own right.

There were many, many other recommendations and Miami hotspots that we would’ve visited if we’d had more time, but by the end of the weekend, we were satisfied with our break, and keen to return home to our kids.