Sampling the local foods

SUNDAY, AUG 3 — I’m increasingly impressed by the level of service of our Disney guides. When the girls misplaced the luggage tags needed for today’s trip to Salzburg, our guides had already put new ones on the bags before I even asked them. They time a stop in the quaint but touristy town of Durnstein (it is here that Richard the Lion Hearted was imprisoned) just right — enough time to buy some apricot jam (the area is particularly known for apricots we learn) and for the little boys to buy some wooden swords and shields.

Lunch will be on a cruise down the Danube that will take us about 35 miles, from Durnstein to Melk. The villages are postcard-pretty, especially on a sunny day. The parents are pleased that the guides invite them to enjoy the views on the top deck while they entertain the kids elsewhere. The trip isn’t even half over but it has already exceeded expectations, says David Andrews traveling with his wife and four kids.

“We’re already talking about next summer,” he said, adding that he was especially delighted that “No one has to wear mouse ears.”

In fact, while this Adventure by Disney is all about five-star service, attention to detail, and planning itineraries and activities with the kids in mind, it’s not at all about Mickey Mouse and friends. Every effort is made to engage the kids with activities that will encourage them to learn more about where we’re visiting — even on the bus. Everyone is invited to play a game where we draw an Austrian man in traditional dress, passing the paper on for each new item of clothing (the traditional shirt, shorts, vest, etc). Our guide explains to the kids what these clothes are and then afterward, they tape them to both sides of the bus so the kids can see their handiwork.

All of us agree we like not having to sweat the details — even transferring our luggage.

Our group ranges from 88-year-old Velma Williams, traveling with her son, daughter in law and granddaughter, to a six year old. “This trip is making memories for us,” Velma says, adding she likes the flexibility in the itinerary so that she doesn’t have to do every activity. “I hope they remember me as a fun loving grandma,” she jokes.

Along the way to Salzburg, we watch — what else — The Sound of Music which of course is set right here. Our guides tell us which sites we should look out for and when we arrive, hand out specially marked maps. “We only have two days,” says Trevor Enderby. “We want to set you up for success.” The scenery changes from terraced vineyards and rolling hills to crystal blue waters and craggy mountains. It is spectacularly beautiful.

We are ensconced in the middle of town at the newly renovated Sheraton Salzburg adjacent to the famous Mirabell Gardens. It’s cozy, with just 139 rooms and we will eat breakfast overlooking the gardens made famous from scenes in the Sound of Music. Salzburg, of course, is Mozart’s birthplace and we’re excited to be here smack in the middle of the famous Salzburg Festival, tonight we’re going to eat at St. Peter’s Restaurant which we hear, is the oldest restaurant in Europe, dating back to 803 AD. Along the way, we’re treated to street musicians — even a pianist playing with centuries-old buildings as his backdrop. There are violinists here, guitarists there. People linger at outdoor cafes for coffee or a beer. The pastries in the windows look too pretty to eat.

The parents are delighted that while we chow down on wild salmon and risotto, with the famous “salzburger knocker”l ( a super suite meringue) for desert, the kids are next door eating pasta and noodle soup and ice cream sundaes and being entertained by our two guides. An unexpected guest makes an appearance. Young Mozart in full regalia treats us to a concert — the kids get one too. Our “Mozart,” is in reality 13-year-old Esmerelda Ginsberger, who lives outside Salzburg. It made a special evening that much more special.

After dinner, the girls and I take a walk to see if we can find one of Salzburg’s famous beer gardens which we do — open air with lots of trees. The city is hopping — partly because it’s a weekend and partly because the Festival is in full swing. Salzburg is a great city for walking, for stopping for a coffee or browsing in the shops down the umpteen narrow passageways. We walk across the bridge — there are several here connecting the two sides of the city — very happy campers.