The worst part about going on a wonderful and memorable trip is preparing to come home.
I like to spend the last night before we fly out in a nice, simple, clean hotel as close to the airport as possible. This makes it easy to get up in the morning and prepare to leave. I always utilize reviews on travel sites such as TripAdvisor when selecting overnight accommodations.
My mom and I took my daughter (age 20) and my niece (age 27) on a self-guided and intimate tour through Germany and Austria. It was a legacy trip… an opportunity for my mother to share with her granddaughters some of her favorite European places. At the end of two weeks, the girls had to get back to their jobs and life, but we planned to spend an extra week touring some northern Germany locations that neither of us had been before. They were to fly out of Frankfurt early in the morning so naturally our last night accommodations with the girls was selected to be fairly close to the Frankfurt airport.
Not knowing specifically where to go, we headed to the airport to make a trial run. The airport was easy to locate and we made a mental note of where to park and how to access the departure area the next morning. We ate dinner in a little restaurant located by the “kiss and good-bye” area of the airport. After watching other families say their farewells, we were pretty much a basket case of tears anticipating our good-bye scheduled for the next morning. We left the airport and set out to find our hotel using “Greta” (our Garmin gps) as our guide. Eventually we located the Comfort Hotel (Frankfurt, Germany). I must say, this nice, clean hotel. The neighborhood, while a bit industrial, was open, well lit and clean. We saw quite a few business men and women coming and going from the hotel so we felt quite comfortable and safe. The rooms themselves were comfy and simple, perfect for our last night stay. The girls did a little packing and repacking exercise and prepared for bed. As the night fell, so did our spirits. We laid in our beds and talked long into the night. It had been such a wonderful and memorable time with the girls and it was going to be so hard to say good-bye to them in the morning.
The next day dawned and after the quick trip to the airport and a very sad good-bye, my mom and I headed north for our own little adventure. Our next stop was the Pension Rossek in the health spa region of Thuringen, Germany. This region is not typically an American tourist area, and we found ourselves welcomed with open arms and hearts. The tag line on the website for the Villa Pension Rossek says, “A vacation for the soul”…and it was. We took advantage of a special package that included a foot reflexology treatment with our room. An abundant breakfast was served in beautiful German style in the bright and sunny breakfast room. A welcome and relaxing break from a hard but enjoyable two weeks of travel. We had an all-day gps adventure in Rudlestadt trying to find and visit the original porcelain factory despite road construction and thirty some detours. “Recalculating” Greta would say, “Recalculating.” We also spent a wonderful day exploring the Wartburg Castle as well as a day of sightseeing along the Weser River.
Soon, it was time for us to repeat the “last night” hotel ritual for ourselves and prepare to go home. We had reserved our rooms back at the Comfort Hotel and arrived mid-afternoon to check-in. That night we decided to explore the neighborhood a bit. We walked down the block to a restaurant that had been recommended. It was actually in the lobby of the Albatros Airport Hotel. It wasn’t much for quaint old-world German atmosphere, but it was clean and welcoming. We were the only people in the restaurant. We selected a nice table on the front patio to enjoy the warm evening breeze. A pleasant young man came to our table. The waiter we assumed. He introduced himself and in German informed us that he would be our server and our chef for the evening. That was different. We asked to see the menu and inquired about any specials for the evening. He had the menus in his hand, but withheld them from us and instead said, “Let me prepare for you something special, not on the menu… just for you.” My mom and I glanced at each other and said, “why not!” It was our last night in Germany. We put our dinner arraignments totally in his hands and he left to begin to prepare our feast. This dinner was to be no ordinary dinner, but would become a serendipitous moment with my mom and Chef Assimi.
Our first course was a salad. It quickly became evident that our meal would have heavy Italian undertones, not a traditional German fare. It was fresh and dressed to perfection. The lettuce and vegetables were crisp and tasty. We took our time and chatted and talked about our trip. Finally, our main course arrived. It was a wonderful beef and vegetable based Italian pasta dish. I truly don’t know what to call it since I had never eaten anything like it. The flavors were rich and the seasonings perfect. It was hearty and filing but not heavy. While we enjoyed our fantastic meal, Chef Assimi casually chatted with us about our trip, family and work. He mentioned that he had recently married and hoped to someday come to America to cook. I envisioned his wonderfully crafted food fitting in well with the Portland, Oregon “foodie” crowd and I hoped that his dream would eventually become a reality. He concluded our dinner with a special dessert he created just for us. It had cake, it had fruit and it had chocolate…what more can you ask for as a perfect end to a serendipitous moment.
As we were preparing to leave another American couple arrived to eat. The Chef approached them and made them the same offer of preparing a special dinner just for them. We watched as he tried to explain to them that it would be wonderful. They hesitated and then finally said, no, they would just order off the menu. As he took their order and turned to head to the kitchen, he glanced over at us, looked us in the eye, and shrugged his shoulders as if to say. “I guess not everyone is ready to accept a dinner adventure”.
I have to say that even after six years, this single moment and this unbelievable meal stick in my mind. It represents and reflects my whole philosophy of what travel and vacation is really about. Looking for those special unanticipated and unexpected moments…and then not being afraid to embrace and experience them fully, without hesitation. Could we have just ordered off the menu? Yes. Would our dinner have been good? Yes. But instead we were treated to a special moment in time that has become a favorite memory from our Legacy Trip. It was a serendipitous moment in Frankfurt, Germany.