After moving to Europe I always dreamed of working remotely from a fabulous destination. There was a period of time where it was not a possibility, and another period where I travelled heavily for work so working remotely held little appeal. With restrictions slowly easing in Europe we thought it would be a great time to extend our weekend break in Belgium to be a week working remotely from the Black Forest in Germany.
It was a fabulous experience that allowed us to enjoy the scenic Airbnb we rented and use our mornings to enjoy adventures in neighboring towns.
I am very lucky that my company enables working remotely, but logistically it proved challenging. There were key considerations when we were looking to book the Airbnb – wifi and working surfaces being key. As we discovered there were not a lot with desks and most Airbnbs that claimed to have “dedicated working spaces” merely had dining room tables. I found reviewing photos and identifying the spaces helped – with our Airbnb I saw the kitchen bar stools, dining room table, outside patio and outside balcony as critical spaces across multiple rooms.
In the end it proved to be a really delightful way to extend our trip and enjoy a much slower and more focused pace of travel. The Black Forest ended up having a great environment for working remotely and I would highly recommend it as a place to get away, refocus energy and embrace the remoteness of the area.
Traveling During a Period of Fluctuating Restrictions
One of the main reasons we booked our flights into Luxembourg was the ambiguity and shifting restrictions from Belgium and Netherlands. As fully vaccinated and boosted travelers Luxembourg had the least fluxtuation and least ambiguity over what was required for our entry. By the time we actually traveled all countries in question had lifted the majority of restrictions for fully vaccinated/boosted travelers.
Masks: These remaiend a varying constant in our travels. They were required for the flight to Luxembourg but not the return flight to London. The region of Germany we were in was deemed a “hot spot” so our cloth masks were not appropriate and we had to buy higher rated masks to wear there.
Vaccinations: We had our Covid Travel Passports (via the NHS App) checked at most indoor restaurants.
Flexibility a new Requirement to Travel
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in the last year of travel is that you must be flexibile in your arrangements. Airlines are still running under capacity and in many cases will cancel flights to consolidate passengers. This happened to us on our return flight from Luxembourg.
British Airways cancelled our 11:55 flight to London Heathrow and rebooked us on a 19:55 flight to London City, which was then delayed another 2 hours.
Not only did our plans need to account for the flexibility of cancelled, rescheduled, and delayed flights – but we also had to learn about having flexibility in our destination being changed at short notice. While Heathrow is a very convenient airport to where we live London City is a hike (and with DLR part closed an even greater challenge). It seems that this level of flexibility is no longer a rare requirement of traveling but is becoming the norm in these near-post-pandemic times.
A Weekend in Belgium’s Ardennes Region
We flew into Luxembourg Findel Airport on the Friday and picked up our hire car. The drive from Luxembourg to the Ardennes region of Belgium was relatively short, only 1h 30 min on well maintained highways. We were staying with friends at a cabin in Trois-Ponts, near to Malmedy.
The majority of the weekend was spent catching up with friends in our adorable cabin, but we also visited a local brewery. There was a lot more to see in the region as well – from castles, to activities, and various hiking opportunities. It’s the kind of region I could happily return to time and time again because of it’s various offerings.
Accmodation in Ardennes
The “quirky” cabin was a fantastic retreat for the weekend with close friends. Beyond the incredible view over the valley there was also the heated and domed pool, and the sauna house/fire pit. The interior was well equipped with a top quality kitchen and a cozy living room with a pellete fire stove. We also lucked out with incredible weather during the trip, ranging from 18 C and sunny during the day to a brisk chill overnight. It even snowed on our second night! Thankfully the heated pool was covered by a dome and created a warm and comfortable environment.
Peak Beer Brewery
On the Saturday we visited a local beer brewery for a tour, tasting and lunch. The charming Peak Beer Brewery is Belgium’s highest brewery at 700 meters (rounded up genersouly from 694 meters) or around 2275 feet.
The Brewery offers not only beautifully brewed beer, but also a brewery tour, a restuarant with quality food, striking views from their patio, and several fantastic hiking paths.
We joined a tour in English at the Brewery (they also offer them in Flemish and French) and they walked us through their impressive facilities. Starting with the pristine and photogenic stills and following through into their brewing room. They talked about their approach to brewing beer, about the pure water sources they used, and the different varieties they had crafted. Afterwards we were invited to partake in a tasting of two beers each. Since their menu included 8 beers and there were 4 of us we chose to try each beer and rate them overall. We also stayed to enjoy lunch which was exquisite and with a lot of local fare on offer.
My ratings for the beers were detailed on my Untapped Account, but here is a summary (3 is an average score for me, and reflects a beer I’ve enjoyed):
- Triple: 4.25 / 5
- Myrtille (Blueberry): 3.75 / 5
- Zero (Alcohol free): 3.5 / 5
- Winter: 3.25 / 5
- IPA: 3.25 / 5
- Summer: 3 / 5
- Blonde: 2.75 / 5
- Brune: 2.5 / 5
A Week Working Remotely from the Black Forest in Germany
The idea of working remotely felt daunting in the lead up to our trip. We had to make various luggage concessions to be able to travel with all our necessary equipment. Laptops were easy enough to pack but my husband also uses other equipment for his role as a Research Engineer, plus clothes and other necessities. We ended up packing significantly heavier than I would have for a week away, most of it for work gear.
The other challenge we ended up facing was how to select the right place to work from. I spent hours sifting through properties on Airbnb and a variety of other sites looking for a place where we could both work comfortably. The greatest challenge I found was that despite Airbnb having a filter for “dedicated workspace” there were very few results that had anything more than a simple kitchen table. I ended up creating a spreadsheet where I could accurately track the surfaces that were available by looking through the photos at the property.
In the end all that hard work paid off – we were able to secure an amazingly beautiful home in the Black Forest with two separate workspaces (albeit a dining room table and a kitchen island table with bar stools). The takeaway I have from the experience is not to trust filters and to go the extra mile in my research for such properties in the future. Not all research is fool proof though – despite advertising the presence of free Wifi there were issues with the provider due to wider global issues and we had to hot-spot from my phone.
We used our mornings to explore nearby villages and towns, starting work a little later and enjoying the local scenic villages.
Our Airbnb was in the beautiful village of Hausach in Baden-Württemberg, which dates back to the 13th century. We enjoyed a small hike up to Husen Castle from the center of the village with great views of the valley and the Kinzig River cutting through the gorgeous scene.
Across from our Airbnb was the fantastic Käppelehof Restaurant with the most fantastic views of our valley, and a fantastic menu.
Later in the week of our stay we also enjoyed the loop hike that started at Käppelehof, passed by Hausach itself, and returned to the restuarant. It was a long route through the forest but a really pleasant experience. While staying at the Airbnb we noticed that there were many bikes heading out on the path and lots of local hikers, it was constantly busy during the sunny week we were there.
We visited the nearby village of Schiltach on the recommendation of an article highlighting “45 of Germany’s most beautiful towns and villages“. And we were not disappointed.
Schiltach is a charming village only 20 minutes away from Hausach that dates back to the 11th century and also sits on the Kinzig River. It was a beautiful drive to reach the village on a sunny morning in the Black Forest. The beautiful timber houses line the Kinzig River and Schiltach River, as well as the main square of the village. The bunting in the main square brings a festive atmosphere to the area. And there are several museums, markets and shops dotted throughout the charming village.
We spent a few hours wandering around the village and enjoyed a few local pastries by the Schitlach River.
This pictuerequse 13th century village is the epitome of historic market town in Germany – with beautiful timbered buildings, city gates, and architecture that tells a story of the town’s history. The colorfully vibrant timbered buildings really drew my attention when we were walking into town. There was a local market on when we visited with stalls selling everything from fresh egg noodles to baked goods. There were several charming cafes to choose from and we visited a small one in the centre of town that offered a German breakfast. Continental breakfast had never tasted so good. We had 4 different types of freshmade breads, with local meats and cheeses.
There was a very different vibe between Schiltach, a much smaller village, and Gengenbach but they were both wonderful. Since they’re only 45 minutes apart if you’re in the area for one you should definitely visit the other.
World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock
Prior to our trip I spent some time researching what there was to see in the area, and looking at all the local sites and pins marked on Google Maps. When I stumbled upon the pin for “World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock” I thought it would be a pure gimic, but it really is what it says on the tin!
The clock has even made it into the Guiness Book of World Records, back in the 90s. And yes, while it does present itself as a roadside attraction, there is a lot of heart in the actual structure which is worth visiting. There is an automated gate you can pay €2 to in order to gain entry to the inside of the clock, and a small museum dedicated to the engineers who built the magnificent structure.
It chimes every hour and half hour – and showcases a large wooden bird that calls out the “cuckoo”.
Our Airbnb host had a list of local sites to visit – including an open air museum (which sadly was not yet open during our trip). Included on this list was a “Rodelbahn”, which roughly translates to a “tobbagen run”. In actuality it was a mini roller coaster down the side of a large hill.
I was initially disappointed to learn that it was not open during our week in Germany, but the first day it did open was the Saturday we were leaving for France. So we timed our departure to happen shortly after it opened and it gave me a chance to experience this uniquely crazy Rodelbahn myself! It was really fun even if my first trip was very hesitent and tenuous.
You’re given a chair with lever that controls the brakes – and then you’re transported to the top of a hill and sent careening down a set of tracks that twist and turn and go every which way. It was so much fun and I felt like a child riding the Rodelbahn several times!
Weekend in France & Luxembourg
About halfway through our stay in Germany we had news from British Airways that our flight back to London Heathrow had been cancelled, and we were rebooked on a much later flight to London City. This was furstrating for a few different reasons but the biggest being that London Heathrow is hugely convenient (so much so that we try to exclusively fly out of it), and London City was not. We had a lot of luggage and had not packed for hauling anything across cities, but with cars. Thankfully I was able to contact Avis and get an extension on our rental so that we could use the 8 extra hours on the continent to explore, rather than be stuck wherever our luggage was being held. This enabled us to reconsider our schedule and add a bit more time in France and Luxembourg.
Colmar dates back to 1226 but there are references of the town that are even older. It’s set in France’s Grand-Est region but at various points in history has been German. The historic old town is well preserved and a true treasure.
The colorful and timber frame buildings in old town are exquiste. Combined with the charm of the canals in the Little Venice region this town has a uniquely colorful and quaint vibe. Among the winding streets are some famous landmarks, from the covered market to the old custom’s house there is much to see. We enjoyed sitting outside on a warm sunny day at a cafe and soaking in the atmosphere of this historic town.
After our plans changed I looked for an alternative hotel for our Saturday night. Since it was on short notice I was worried I wouldn’t find anywhere nice. We cancelled our booking at Luxembourg Airport hotel – convenient for an early flight, but no longer for our late flight.
I stumbled upon Abbaye Des Prémontrés, a hotel within an Abbey in a town that was conveniently located halfway between Colmar and Luxembourg City – Pont-à-Mousson. The abbey, as expected, was simply exquisite. Unsurprisingly they were also hosting a wedding the same evening we were staying there and I can imagine it was a grand affair.
We found a local restaurant with fantastic food to enjoy, and walked along the river for some scenic views of this town. In the morning we indulged in pastries from a local bakery before setting off to explore nearby Metz.
It has the beautiful avenues of a French city with the architecture I’ve come to expect and love. The area around the River is really charming island – featuring New Temple and Place de la Comedie. The Cathedral de Metz is a short walk away from the River, and situated near the Covered Market.
While viewing a few of the city’s landmarks and statues I had an older French gentleman stop me to ask if I knew the history of the statue we were looking at – for Marshal Ney. It was clear that his English was not strong but he was proud to talk about this French hero of the Napoleonic-era.
I had previously spent a weekend in Luxembourg so knew the best places to show my husband with our spare few hours. We parked beneath the Municpial Park in the city, and were able to walk through the old town.
Given the limited time before our flight I took my husband on a loop of the old town. We visited the incredible Pfaffenthal elevator and the neighborhood beneath. We stopped at the exceptional Pâtisserie Hoffmann Porte Neuve for a few pastries. Finally, we walked through the Park on the way back to the car. This 2 hour quick tour of the city was the best I could do in such a short time, but I would recommend a weekend in the charming city.
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