“Do you remember Asheville?” has become part rallying cry, part calming mantra for my husband and me. We spent a glorious weekend there in 2015, taking leisurely meals, sitting quietly in front of the giant fireplaces of the Omni Grove Park Inn, and luxuriating in the spa. We loved the view of the mountains and the resort vibe that so many restaurants and stores can bring to a town so seemingly tucked away. For tired parents of toddlers, being alone anywhere would have been recharging, but Asheville was special.
In the less than 24 hours we were in Baden-Baden, it gave us the impression it might be somewhat like Asheville. This German resort town is known for it’s thermal bathes that have been drawing people since the Romans. Much like Asheville, it is also tucked in the mountains of the Black Forests with the Oos River running through it. For such a small city, wide streets and stately architecture harken to its appeal to royals and celebrities of days past. At its height in the mid-nineteenth century, it was known as the “capital of Europe.” Today, in late November, we found it to be a quiet and peaceful respite.
Caracalla Spa is one of several thermal bathes in Baden-Baden, boasting twelve hot springs, aromatherapy saunas, red light therapy, and numerous other amenities. Children under seven are not allowed in the bathes, but for 5 Euro a child, we were able to send them to the onsite childcare room for our two-hour stay. Talk about a deal, especially since it cost us the same to rent towels!
Dennis and I laughed through good portions of this experience. Everyone else – probably a few hundred Europeans – seemed to know what they were doing. And everyone must, because very little information was provided. So, we stumbled around, dropping our things off in lockers, searching for towels, wandering around to all of these saunas and pools that are meant to cure you of pains. Our favorite part was the heated outdoor pool, where we sat warm under a dreary and wet sky, with the backdrop of a sweet chapel reminiscent of some M.J. Hummel design.
I’m not sure I would call the experience romantic, but it was refreshing to do something so new and unique with my best friend. It’s not on every international adventure that you can find childcare. On another note, Dennis and I both felt horrible the couple of days following. Not to blame the bathes, but we did not find relief, but instead pains we didn’t know we had.
After the spa, and takeout Chinese in our hotel room, Charlotte and I went out to wander the streets. Let me tell you, it was magical. Baden-Baden’s large pedestrian zone was all lit up and lined with high-end store windows showcasing beautiful clothing and chocolates. Many of the stores were already closed for the evening, but when we saw an open cosmetic store, Charlotte would ask to “pop in” and we’d quickly browse the colors and holiday decorations before moving on. We ended up at a large department store with festive decorations and an amazing food market. This simple thirty-minute walk through the cold streets with my big girl was easily the most memorable part of the trip, and something I’ll remember on the coming days when we undoubtedly struggle.
After we returned, Dennis took his turn exploring Baden-Baden while I got all of the kids to sleep, without issue, in a hotel room! For those who know us, and what a struggle hotels have been, it was a miracle. Hotel Quellenhof was such an endearing hotel, in my book, made even better by our behavior within it’s walls. A bit dated, but with grand amounts of space, there were so many welcoming touches. Orthodox icons hung above every door. Bowls of fruit were stationed in the hallways with signs encouraging you to make sure you got your vitamins. Warm gluwhein in the lobby was free for the taking. Our room was large, with a king size bed, a seating area, and a large balcony that looked out on the hills and town lights. After everyone was asleep, Dennis and I bundled up and sat outside with good cups of beer. The bells chimed every 15 minutes. And it was just that kind of night. It was that kind of trip; one that was as close to Asheville as we could get.