Saturday, November 18, 2017

Round Two!

Hey All!

It has been over a year since I traveled around the European Union. This time, I'm headed back to visit Germany and DECEMBER and ALONE!

I'm so excited to share the second part of this journey with everyone.

Right now, the plan is Berlin from December 10-14.

Then, Florence from December 14-17.

And lastly, Rome from December 17-22.

So, hit me with your favorite things to do in each of these cities so I can build my itineraries now!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Cheerio! À la prochaine.

That's it folks. Today was our last day in Europe for this summer.

We walked and trained over to the Boulevard St. Germaine, where apparently the best chocolatiers in Paris are housed, at least according to Conde Nast. Others may disagree, but I just needed a place to start, ya know?

We decided to check out a couple of different places on the list. We wanted to get a variety (even though only one pack was for us and the rest are gifts) just to see the different stores.

First up, we visited Pierre Marcolini and after perusing for a minute headed out. We didn't buy anything, as this was our first stop and we wanted a basis for comparison. We are teachers after all, so shopping on budget is kind of thing.

Next door was a cute little boutique, Antonio et Lili, that had the cutest outfit hanging in the window. I went in and looked at the price and then decided to keep walking. But it stuck with me. I really wanted it. So, I turned back and decided to splurge on me. I bought the entire outfit - dress, belt and necklace - just as it was displayed because I loved it so much. I may wear it to work every single day next year.

From there, we traveled down the boulevard to Patrick Roger, but it looked closed so I peaked in the window. The smaller box was like 40 euro, so we decided to keep walking, only to watch this other guy walkin. Um...push, not pull. My bad.

From there, Un Dimanche à Paris, which is a bar, restaurant and chocolate store. They make the chocolate right there in front of you behind a big window. We finally bought something...a lot of somethings. The smell alone inside the store was enough to sway me.

After that, Maison Georges Larnicol for a box of macarons. They had self service chocolate that could be scooped into boxes and bought by weight, but I know myself, and that felt dangerous. Macarons only it was.

Next up was Henri Le Roux, but they were closed for another hour. Our last stop was back to Pierre Marcolini. Can you have too much chocolate?

We headed back to the apartment to pack up for tomorrow. Our day starts at 6am. I'll be home soon, RVA. I've missed you, a lot.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Au revoir, Strasbourg. C'était charmant!

I was immediately taken with this charming city. Today sealed the deal for me. We started the day by walking around the grande île, peaking at used books in the street market and window shopping along Grand Rue. The kids have been asking for crêpes, so we knew we had to follow through with that promise. We stopped at a couple of places that were cash only (I didn't know that was a thing still), before finding a lovely little restaurant that accepted credit.

We ordered a crêpe salé and a crêpe sucre each. We topped them off with a "ice ball" (read: ice cream), and it was simply one of the best things I've had in Strasbourg, which is saying a lot.

Today was all about hitting some parks, and we were determined to make our way across the River Rhine via Le Jardin des Deux Rives, which connects France and Germany.

This pretty much sums up how I felt after walking for hours in skinny jeans and my Astrals, which are not cushioned for those kinds of walks. I didn't say it was pretty, folks.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Between the research and the sadness...

There was time to explore today. We walked around window shopping for a little bit while searching for a place to eat lunch. This allowed us to just take in the architecture and the language and the culture of the city. We strolled through an open air market selling mostly clothing and vegetables, an interesting mix. We decided on an Italian restaurant near the Cathedral before making our ascent to the top. This is not a climb for the weak or faint. We climbed up 332 stairs, and while the website calls it "thrilling," I would more accurately categorize it as terrifying.

About half way, we had to cross platform which is maybe, maybe two feet wide. At first, I thought that was it. I was okay with it even though it wasn't the stunning view I was expecting. We were, after all, still pretty high up. I figured those mountains in the distance were what they meant when they said you could see Germany.

I started looking for the way back down.

That's when we realized, there were more stairs. And those stairs kept going up.

Goldmine of historical stuffs. And a cousin lovin' surprise.

Today was going to be my trip to the archives for the Bas Rhin region, located here in Strasbourg. I woke up and decided to get a head start on what I would be asking for, as I learned the hard way from my London trip, that going unprepared is ill advised.

Quick geography lesson.

The Alsace region of France is located in Eastern France on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland.

It has two departments, the Bas-Rhin and the Haut-Rhin. The Bas-Rhin is more populous and densely populated of the two.
Strasbourg is the capital of the Bas-Rhin, and where we are visiting this week. (This is a map of the entire Alsace region. Colmar is the capital of the Haut-Rhin.)

While we may be in Strasbourg, because the archives are here, my family, it seems is actually from Steinbourg, which is about 21 miles away from Strasbourg. 

A rude awakening...

It wasn't even 9 am here, when I first started waking to the kids downstairs scrounging through the cabinets and the fridge looking for breakfast. I could hear the girls giggling with one another. The windows were open and the crisp air and sound of rushing water from the river reminded me that we were still in Strasbourg.

I rolled over to see if Sky had gotten out of bed, but before I could, he said, "There was a terrorist attack in Nice. At a Bastille Day celebration."

I was still for a second, letting it all sink in.

Another act of senseless violence. More lives lost.

Suddenly, the laughter of my kids and the sounds outside retreated and I was just left in that moment horrified, saddened, heartbroken, and worst of all, fearful. It could have been us. It could have been here. It could have been at the soccer fan zone in Paris. The what-ifs, the fear...that is what "they" want.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

La fête nationale!

The weather in Strasbourg in July is like an October day in Richmond. It's sunny, but a chill forces a sweater when you are in shade or the sun has disappeared behind the clouds. I almost expect there to be crunching leaves below my feet. Sleeping with the windows open is fine, as long as there is a big heavy comforter to keep you warm. This is not the summer heat I left behind. I don't think I could do this all the time. I need my heat and sweat.

Today is la fête nationale in France, or what the English speaking world likes to call "Bastille Day," which commemorates the Storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789 as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on July 14, 1790.

There isn't much going on during the day to celebrate, as far as we can tell. Most stores are closed today, including grocery stores and some restaurants - specifically the ones not near tourist attractions. Tourist attractions are open and even have free entry for the day.

We headed to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, which was the tallest building for 227 years, from 1647 to 1874. The steeple could be seen towering high above, even from across the river.

We walked around the outside, but decided today was not the day to ascend the 300+ stairs to the top.

Instead, we headed inside for a look around at the amazing interior architecture, mostly in a high Gothic architecture. It is also the highest existing structure built entirely in the Middle Ages. It is so high, it can be seen from the Black Forest in Germany.