Quelle Surprise!

Who doesn’t love a good surprise when traveling?

Most of our visit to the Auvergne region of France was fairly surprising, mostly down to the fact that I’m not a huge pre-trip planner in general, plus my crazy new work schedule last spring that left little to no spare brain space to plan for our trip anyways. I’m sure at some point this laissez-faire approach will bite me in the butt, but so far, I’ve done okay. Auvergne worked out fairly well for us, with a fantastic variety of activities, and an extremely helpful host at the holiday apartment that we chose for our five days in the region.

On our first full day, he advised us to head towards a few villages that were about an hour away from our location, and so off we went. However, on the way there, we saw something that made us say “WHAT IS THAT?” and a few minutes later we pulled the car over into a helpfully placed viewpoint parking lot.

So what did we see? Click on for details…

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31-Day Challenge 2018: Day 12

I was just about finishing packing up for our trip when it occurred to me that I also needed to squeeze in the day’s writing before we go to friends for dinner. I also had one more task to do, which was to empty the card of the DSLR a bit, as I always forget that, and then end up trying to walk and delete things at the same time. Not great, especially as the card is 32Gb, which is not exactly small.

Short on time, I took a quick look at how many pictures were on the camera, and told BV to pick a number before 1 and 2800-somethingish. He opted for 2244, so here it goes.

Alsace, you are pretty.

After Christmas, we packed up and drove to the Alsace for a few days with my parents and sister, who were visiting. We spent most of the time in Colmar, but made day trips to Strasbourg and Kaysersberg. BV and I had been to Strasbourg before, but Colmar and Kaysersberg were new to everyone.

I took this while standing over the village of Kaysersberg, just outside its ruined castle. Like any good, old, European town, the castle sits on top of a hill, and looks out over vineyards on one side, and towards rolling green hills on the other.

It’s rather appropriate actually that he picked this picture, because we *almost* went back to France for his birthday trip. We celebrated in Strasbourg a few years back, and this trip just solidified my love of all the colorful little towns tucked under hills rolling with vines. In the end, we couldn’t decide exactly where in France to go, and opted for heading south again, but we will certainly be returning here in the future.

Kaysersberg is one of several towns in the Alsace that claims to be the inspiration for Beauty and the Beast, and it was easy to see why. Narrow streets, crooked houses, half-timbering galore, mulled local wine on every corner… that last part isn’t specifically Beauty and the Beast related, just a nice perk in this wine-growing region… it was beautiful.

There is a strong case for a future summer trip where we hike village to village, eating, drinking, and hopefully walking¬† most of it off before the next stop to eat and drink some more. I’m not sure what more one could want from a vacation, honestly.

Speaking of vacation, we’re off tomorrow and I’m going to try to continue the daily posts while we’re away. It worked for a few days last year until we got an epic storm that knocked out the internet for the duration of our visit. The forecast is pretty much rain every day, which means we’re 1) over packing like crazy and 2) not optimistic about the internet service. But if it doesn’t work, I’ll go analog and update when we get back. TBD, for those of you kindly following along. ūüôā

*****

Editor’s Note: This is part of a 31-day challenge series for the month of May, in which I aim to spend at least 15 minutes writing about whatever strikes my fancy. Results may vary.

Sunday Snapshots: Leafy Strasbourg

Strasbourg, France 2014

Strasbourg, France 2014

Oh, France. I love you so much, even when you are fairly German. Two years ago we went to Strasbourg to celebrate BV’s birthday, and it remains one of my favorite city trips I’ve ever taken. Charming does not even begin to describe the twisted, cobbled streets, and who can possible argue with literal pyramids of macarons? Pyramids of macarons!? Seriously.

Strasbourg in Pictures

Ah, finally. The trouble with having a sweet-ass new camera means that the number of pictures I took two weeks ago in Strasbourg was a bit higher than the last few trips I’ve taken. And since I’m an indecisive person and would rather spend my time outside (I’m writing this on our Bierbank* in the garden, actually), then sit inside writing long-winded weekend recaps, a photo essay it is.

I’ve broken it down into a few categories, and as per usual, just click on a picture to view the entire gallery complete with whatever captions I feel like throwing in there. First though, a teaser picture, and the rest you find after the jump….

Welcome to France, here's your sweet view for the weekend.

Welcome to France, here’s your sweet view for the weekend.

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Strasbourg: The Food

Two weekends ago, BV and I took a little road trip to Strasbourg to celebrate his birthday. I’ll have a more thorough post on it later this week, but today I wanted to share a bit about the most important thing when going to France… and that’s food and drink.

Starting with drink… Strasbourg is in the Alsace region, which is most well-known for its white wines. Because of the proximity to Germany, there were some familiar names like Gew√ľrztraminer, Riesling, and M√ľller-Thurgau, mixed in with the more French-sounding names (Pinot Gris, Rose, etc.) In the name of research, we tried quite a few different kinds as you can see below. Besides the wine we were delighted to find that a beer fest celebrating regional breweries was happening all weekend in the square right next to the Strasbourg Cathedral. I’ll just assume that meant that they knew we were coming. We tried quite a few of the beers on offer (see me double-fisting below) and I wish I had more information about the individual breweries, but I couldn’t find any leaflets or other information laying around. All I know is that were light beers, dark beers, IPAs (take note Germany!), and that many of them were damn tasty. More research will be undertaken on the next trip, don’t worry.

Moving onto food, we ate very well all weekend. The first night we found a small Weinstube, or wine bar, that was still serving food. We scarfed down our galettes, but were surprised to see that they weren’t buckwheat pancakes (as is usual at the French place here), but instead were more like potato pancakes with very finely shredded potato. Mine was topped with Black Forest ham and fresh cheese, and BV had salmon, and fresh cheese with horseradish. Both were absolutely delicious and clearly had a short life as I didn’t get any pictures.

Saturday night we enjoyed dinner out on the patio of a restaurant not too far away from the Petit France area. I can’t remember the name, but this time I have pictures! BV had a starter of goat cheese on toast. The goat cheese was really strong, but really delicious. My dinner was roasted potatoes with fresh cheese (sensing a theme here), fresh minced garlic, and chives. It might sound boring, but it was not. The potatoes were absolutely perfectly cooked, golden and a little crisp on the outside, soft and buttery on the inside. With the fresh cheese and herbs… yum! BV went for mussels, one of his favorite dishes. They were good, but the standard for him remains the mussels that he had in Brussels.

Obviously after all the food and drink, you need something sweet. Which brings us to the desserts. One of my main concerns was getting my hands on some macaroons. We saw some out and about, but bought some at the bakery right next to our apartment, which also happens to be where the delicious cake display below was. Oh, and that lemon cake, and the super-chocolate cake was there too. We pretty much hit the jackpot on neighborhood bakeries. The lady inside was super-sweet too, and very patient with our indecisiveness. When in doubt, get one of every macaroon. That’s my advice to you all. We’re still working our way through the box, but thus far, they’ve all been good choices.

We had a great weekend, and more about Strasbourg is forthcoming, but I’d go back strictly based on the food. What do you think?

Have you been to Strasbourg? Did we miss any good treats?

A Preferred Saturday

This week has been a little crazy. The four-day weekend for Easter last week kind of threw everything off, and I have a ton of catching-up to do now. I’m on my own this weekend (which is a very infrequent occasion these days), and hopefully I‘ll be able to get through my giant “to-do” list by tomorrow evening. This list includes, but is not limited to….

– Cleaning everything. Seriously, everything. We had workmen over to take a look at my bathroom last week, and I was fairly embarrassed by how messy it was.
– Washing everything I own. My washing machine was broken for almost two weeks, and now I have an avalanche of dirty clothing.
– Oh, and if it’s not dirty, it might be ripped. Remember when I said all my stuff was dying? Yeah… just found a hole in my go-to jeans. So I need to go through and throw out some stuff.
– Take bottles to the recycling containers. My kitchen windowsill makes me look like a wino. Oh, who am I kidding.
– Grocery shopping.
– Exercising. I had intended on doing 10-day, 20-day, and 30-day follow-up posts to the 30-day challenge, but that clearly didn’t happen this week. I’m going to shoot for a halfway point post and a final post. No promises though.
– Lesson plans, as per usual.

All these things kind of suck though, and since I’m in procrastination mode, I thought I’d pop in and tell you what I would much rather be doing on this gray, allegedly “Spring” day….

Many, many moons ago, I wrote about an afternoon at an adorable caf√© here in N√ľrnberg. I’ve been back once or twice since then, but a few weeks ago I finally got BV in the door with me. We had actually tried to go there once in January, but they were closed for vacation. Go figure. But this time they were open, there was a free table, and we were in.¬†

This caf√© is proof-positive that a huge menu does not mean anything. They don’t have a ton of options, but what they do have is fantastic. Their small standard menu consists of a few breakfast choices, baguettes, galettes, and cr√™pes. In addition to the everyday options, they have a daily menu that is almost as big…

We started with a .5-liter of house ros√©, figuring that we were due for a break from the mass quantities of Italian red wine we’ve been drinking lately. This was an excellent choice, and at least once BV has suggested going back strictly to drink some wine. We tried to go for dinner last week Saturday, but when we called to reserve a table we found out that they’re only open for dinner on Thursday and Friday nights. Good to know!¬†

For the main course, BV opted for a galette filled with feta and grilled vegetables off of the normal menu. I was sure I would go with the Camembert/apple/walnut galette I had the last time, but my curiosity was piqued by something I saw on the daily menu…

My galette was filled with sheeps-cheese, sweet potatoes (a rare find here), and oranges. Sounds weird, right? Tastes… fantastic. If it’s on the menu again the next time, I will be a very happy camper.¬†

Also, German restaurants take note: that mass of green on the left? Yeah, that’s what a SALAD looks like. A side salad should not mean one piece of lettuce, two slices of cucumber, and a slice or two of tomato. Work on that, bitte.

We also went for a dessert, but it wasn’t on the plates long enough to photograph. I was sorely tempted by the promise of Cr√®me br√Ľl√©e, but I’m still holding on to the memory of the one we had in Italy. Instead we both went for sweet cr√™pes with banana and honey. Oh, so good.¬†

So again, if you’re in N√ľrnberg and want to take a trip to the South of France (I don’t know about you all, but I’m ready to take a trip anywhere that isn’t GRAY), go and check out….

Caf√© d’Azur
Burgstraße 11
90403 N√ľrnberg
 

10 Reasons I Love the German Mountains

I first visited the Alps in 2001 as a 17-year old on a post-graduation France trip. It was my first time to see “real” mountains, and not from an airplane either. Initially our group had fought our teacher on the decision to do a 3-day extension to Chamonix at the end of our 17-day tour. We all wanted to go to Italy, but our teacher wouldn’t budge.

The kids last year hated Rome. It was hot and crowded.… we’re much better off going to the Alps,” she told us. We whined a lot, but it was to no avail.

We arrived in Chamonix after a hot and crowded few days in Paris. We were there for the end of the Tour de France, and so the city was packed and our un-airconditioned hotel provided no relief from the heat of the city in July. We were all country kids, we’d been traveling for two weeks, and this was so far out of our comfort zone it wasn’t even funny. But then…

Via

…and also this….

Via

I was sold. We took two cable cars and an elevator to visit the Aiguille du Midi, which gave us a view from 3842m. Far below us the brightly colored jackets of the mountain climbers stood out in the snow as they made their way up Mont Blanc. It was an amazing view, and I couldn’t believe that some of our group had opted out due to their fear of heights!¬†

On the way back down we took a break between cable cars and ran around the side of the mountain. There was snow in the shade of some of the huge boulders, and we went sledding in our jeans. We’d been traveling for over two weeks, it’s not like they were clean anyways. In the sun the grass was green and full of wildflowers. I wanted to change my name to Heidi, get some goats, and move on in.

Turns out, our Madame C. knew best. Just don’t tell her I said that.¬†

…………………………..

After France I had to lead a mountain-free existence for many years. It was sad, and sometimes I felt like Bilbo Baggins….

But then I came to Germany. 

One of my first trips in Germany was to Berchestgaden. And once again, I was hooked.

I love everything about the mountains in Germany. Here are 10 reasons why….

1) I love the rolling landscapes…

View from the Feldburg in the Black Forest

 

2) And the ummmm…. pointy-er landscapes…

View from the on the Zugspitze

3) I love getting to see the same views in summer and winter…

Both views from before heading up the Zugspitze

4) I love the picture-perfect mountain towns…

5) And the picture-perfect mountain town festivals…

All from Berchtesgaden

6) I love fields of sheep behind Alpine hotels….

In Ettal

7) And hiking through fields of cows wearing giant bells….

On the Feldburg. Shhhhh, don’t tell BV he’s on THE INTERNET.

8) I love whatever this is….

9) I love the view from the top…. oh, and the feeling of accomplishment from getting there on your own two feet….

View over the Blaueish√ľtte, Berchtesgaden

10) And I love that you can get a beer at the top whether you took the hard way-hike or the tourist train (or bus, or cable car, or whatever).

At the Eagle’s Nest, Berchtesgaden. Shh, don’t tell my dad he’s on the internet either.
¬†…………………………….

Now I’m not saying that I’m looking into real estate or anything, because I’m not looking to “settle down” right now. But someday I would love to live in the mountains. I’m okay with being a city mouse for now, but in my opinion nothing would be better than waking up to this every morning…

Unless of course, it was if I was looking at that view from a house that looked like…

It’s a little close to the road for me, and a little big, but¬† you get the idea. Wooden shutters, geraniums, cows next door… I love it all.

And of course I’d have to go whole hog on the decor….

A little blurry, sorry.

But if you’re going to live in an Alpine-style house, you have to go all wood and floral and deer on the inside, don’t you? In retrospect I think this is all due to the fact that when I was a kid, I wanted to live David the Gnome’s house.

Via

And over a nice big fireplace, I want to hang these pictures. They are currently for sale at a nearby antiques shop, and I know this is REALLY WEIRD, but I love them. LOVE THEM.

Actually these pictures are what started this whole post off. Talk about a train of thought rerouting. Yeesh. On second thought, it might be time to leave Germany, because I’m clearly going insane.

Mountains? Beaches? Where do you want to go?