When the HorsesDaily Euro-Tour made a scheduled visit to Gestüt Vorwerk, the home and training grounds for Lisa Wilcox, in Cappeln, Germany, it was to begin work on an in depth article on the scholarship program offered by Lisa, her trainer Ernst Hoyos, and the Gestüt Vorwerk, training and breeding operation.
The first recipient, sixteen-year-old Suzanne LaPorte, from Georgia and Florida was settled in and adjusting quickly to her new way of life for the next six weeks.
Suzanne's Mom, Janice, as well as her trainer in America, Bent Jensen, along with John Zopatti were due to arrive in a few days for a visit and to attend the CHIO Aachen event. While Lisa was able to get all of them guest passes to attend the sold out event, the issue of a hotel was still yet to be resolved. Added to the group, was Lisette Milner, who has her three FEI horses in training with Hoyos nearby.
The First HorsesDaily Tour Begins!
A quick phone call to the Hotel Van de Valk, Heerlen, where HorsesDaily's staff always stays, yielded the rooms required, thus beginning an impromptu tour, hosted by Mary (Phelps) and JJ. Hathaway. Joining the group was EuroDressage.com, and HorsesDaily.com correspondent Astrid Appels.
"I called Lisa to tell her, her guests were all set with rooms, and two ready and willing tour guides!" said Phelps. "I told her all she needed to concern herself with now was kicking some butt out there in the arena, which she did! I consider this our own personal contribution to the US Dressage Team."
When their "tour" arrived at Aachen on Wednesday, June 18, the first excursion was already planned; A visit to the nearby villiage on Valkenburg for dinner in a charming cafe, with a view of a ruins at the top of the hill.
Dinner in a Castle
In addition to the main hotel, The Van der Valk also owns and operates the Kasteel der Worm, a recently renovated castle, with accommodations and gourmet French restaurant, serving dinner in the main section of the castle nightly but by appointment only. Hotel owner, Frek Van der Valk, arranged a charming 5 course French dinner, for the HorsesDaily guests including wine, at an excellent rate. After short walk from the main hotel, along a tree line path of wild flowers and orchards to the castle, dinner began in the wine cellar bar, with a champagne toast, and a starter of quail with an olive pate.
"Dinner at the castle with Mary and JJ was the highlight of a wonderful weekend at Aachen," said guest Lisette Milner. "Since coming to Europe, there has only been time to train and ride. This has been such a special treat, we hope they arrange this every year!"
HorsesDaily's Home Base in the Netherlands
"When people come to Aachen, in search for a hotel, they have it stuck in their heads they need to stay somewhere in Germany." explained Phelps. "Aachen is right on the border of the Netherlands, where we have found a hotel which not only has excellent prices (under $100 € per day), large rooms, and a pool and spa, but also is in a beautiful location in the country where the only sounds outside your balcony door are of birds and nature." Just a 12 mile drive to the show grounds, it take less time to get to there , than for the judges who are driven in from the city. Another perk is that it is much easier to get on-line using the Dutch system, than in Germany which often requires an ISDN modem. "I have never had much success getting on line with ease in Germany," said Phelps, but in the Netherlands it's easy." Most of the Dutch able to speak fluent English, and there are more English speaking channels on television, providing a welcome break from CNN and infomercials.
"We have something very special in mind in working with this hotel." divulged Phelps. We are currently working with the owner developing a package for future trips to this region, which will also be the location of the 2006 World Equestrian Games."