By artist Chris Danger, courtesy of Wander Blog.
Done! Basta! Finito!
We’re heading back to the states this weekend. It’s bittersweet, but it will be good to see our families again.
We celebrated our last European weekend with a trip to Switzerland. Beautiful, cold, cloudy, Switzerland.
We had hoped to have a few final breath-taking mountain views to take with us back to the states, and instead we got a whole lot of cloud cover and rain. Luckily though, the rest of the country was in bloom.
Lucerne was beautiful (how many times have I said that this trip?). We only spent a morning there, but it’s the perfect Swiss town. While in Interlaken, we headed up to the town of Wengen via rack railway. The views were amazing- but the cloud cover kept us from going higher on the Jungfrau (one of three mountain peaks nearby). We also seemed to hit Wengen during the Swiss’s afternoon break- almost everything was closed until 2pm! Still, it was fun to see the massive amounts of snow they still have on the ground.
I’m putting both cities down on the list to return to someday- preferably in the middle of summer.
For the HUGE gallery- Lucerne is first with the river/bridge photos. Interlaken/Wengen follow, starting with the train pictures in the town of Lauterbrennen.
So, after a quick snack at the Eiffel Tower, we headed to the Arc de Triomphe.
It a bit cold and windy, but still neat to see. It was also fun to watch random tourists trying to dodge the traffic circling the Arc- and the police directing them to the underground tunnel for when they cross back.
A quick walk down the Champs Elysees and then we hopped on the metro to another highlight of Paris: Angelina’s.
Li looks happy about being in the shopping epicenter of France, doesn’t she?
My father had emphasized the need to go to Angelina’s at least once while we were in Paris. It didn’t disappoint. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a huge chocolate fan- but they had the best hot chocolate I ever tasted. I wish I had the recipe- I could definitely imagine waking up each morning of a cup of Angelina’s hot chocolate. Their pastries are also delicious, but pale in comparison to the chocolate.
After, we cut through the Louvre’s grounds, and Li insisted on a break from walking…and soon our arms also needed a break.
The next morning, after Li found her Easter basket in our tiny room, we strolled over to the Louvre. And… I might have lost it a bit at the length of the line. It looked like it was miles long…I couldn’t see the end of it.
Photo taken about 15 minutes into our wait- the entrance is on the other side of the pyramid…See the tiny people in the distance? I did get a kick at all the people posing in front of it while we waited though.
It was EASTER- why weren’t all those people at Notre Dame or something!?! Probably for the same reason we weren’t, huh?
I also like the faint halo that some drew on the sign…
The line went pretty fast though- and next thing I knew, we were staring at priceless works of art. While I enjoy a good painting as much as the next girl, I realized from my pictures that I’m more of a sculpture type of girl.
That afternoon led us to another church- Saint Chapelle. The church is tiny, and the pictures can’t do it justice. It takes your breath away when you enter.
The next morning, after a quick pain au chocolate, we headed home. It was a wonderful trip- but we were exhausted.
There were so many things we still didn’t get to see – but we’ll just have to hit them when we return.
…Otherwise known as the post of a thousand pictures.
We’re down to two weeks before we head back to the states- and it seems we’ve saved our most extensive travel for our last two weekends. We drove to Paris for the Easter weekend- it was about a four-hour car drive- and we’ll be heading to Switzerland in a few days.
I feel like a broken record- I keep talking about how beautiful all these European cities are- but Paris really was beautiful. It seems like the entire city was designed to be pretty. That being said, I don’t think Paris is the best choice if you have toddler. Li was pretty good, all things considered, but there were a lot of lines, crowds of people, and a fair share of toddler meltdowns. Paris is all about the cafe culture- which doesn’t always accommodate children. Brisket and I have already decided to go back someday- but maybe without children the next time.
The weather started off great- but turned cloudy and rainy our two following days. We made the best of it though, and managed to see most of our top sites without too much trouble. As usual though, we forgot a hat for Li. Luckily, there were plenty of options. Doesn’t she look Parisian?
Our hotel was tiny, but had a nice balconey, and was only a five minute walk from Notre Dame
We headed to Notre Dame first. Like many of the places we’ve been on the trip, it’s surreal being someplace you’ve studied in history classes for most of your life!
Did I mention it was a bit windy?
The pedestrian bridge to Notre Dame is covered with locks- the tradition is to buy a lock, sign your and your significant other’s name, and throw the key into the Seine. Pretty romantic.
We then picked up some Croque Madames (ham sandwiches with egg) at a little shop to eat along the Seine. My French is still horrible, but the little old man behind the counter understood me enough!
We also indulged in a few of my favorite things- we stopped at Berthillion’s, Paris’s most famous ice cream shop, and headed to Shakespeare and Company, Paris’s most famous English bookstore.
The next day we headed to the Eiffel Tower. One word: Amazing.
While I marveled over the architecture, Li loved the playground.
Up Next: The Arc De Triomphe, the Louvre, and the best hot chocolate in Paris…
We visited two different castle this weekend- Reichsburg Castle and Burg Eltz. Both were beautiful, but the walks up to the castles about killed me- especially when Li decided she would rather ride on my hip than walk. Suddenly I knew how those poor mules at the Grand Canyon must feel.
If you are ever in the area, I suggest taking a tour of Reichsburg Castle- our tour guide was great and the funniest German I’ve met so far. Most of the interior photos are from that castle.
Burg Eltz (the last five pictures of the gallery) was interesting, but they don’t allow interior photos. They do have a cafe with some great bratwurst though.
We also spent the night in the wine valley town of Cochem- but my memory is a bit fuzzy from sampling their local wines.
We had planned on going to Salzburg last weekend- but due to work commitments, and an aversion to driving 10 hours in a 24 hour period, ended up heading to the Black Forest instead. Spring is just starting here, and the weather is perfect for some long walks through the woods.
I have to say, the Black Forest was one of my favorite areas of Germany so far. The area is surprisingly mountainous, and there is pretty little town after pretty little town in the valleys.
We spent the night in Triberg- home to Germany’s tallest waterfall. If you’ve seen Niagara Falls, it probably isn’t so impressive, but it was fun to walk in the hills around the waterfall.
We were also surprised that there was still snow in the hills. I think we had a total of three days of snow in our area of the country- but it looks like the Black Forest area received quite a bit more this winter.
Triberg is pretty- and full of cuckoo clock shops- including the shop where we bought one. I guess we were hypnotized by clocks everywhere you look!
We also tried out the Black Forest cake while hanging out with some interesting decorations in one of the local restaurants.
We didn’t have any particular plans for Sunday…but I have always wanted to try the summer toboggan runs that are popular in Germany. The closest one was closed- but luckily we found a roller coaster that is open year round that runs down the side of the Hasenhorn mountain in Todtnau.
After a relaxing trip up the ski lift, and a brief explanation on how to work the car in broken English (Use brakes. Not too much. No crashing.), Li and I sailed down the mountain. Brisket followed us- and when I can snag his video of the experience, I’ll be sure to post it.
Li loved it, yelling “Whee!” on every curve. It was probably the fastest, and the most fun, way I’ve ever headed down a mountain…especially after our adventure in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
We had another double-header this weekend- we headed to Brugge, Belgium (or Bruges for you English speakers out there) and the Netherlands for a long three-day weekend. The southern tip of the Netherlands (or Zeeland) is only about an hour from Brugge and boasts some of the most extensive bike trails I’ve seen in Europe so far.
I had a few reservations about Brugge…particularly after my run-in with Brussels. Brugge though was lovely. I think Brugge is still a bit undiscovered by Americans- which is a shame as it’s a great Gothic city that is easily walkable. All the main sights are centered around two main squares- and everything is in English, Flemish, French, and German.
Brugge (and Belgium) is known for its beer, its lace, and its chocolate. While I didn’t pick up any lace, we did indulge in the beer and the chocolate.
Easter Island- made of chocolate
Our own box- some of the best chocolates I’ve ever tasted!
The wall of Belgium beers- I lost count after 300 or so
After hitting the chocolate museum, we went to Cambrinus, a famous bar and restaurant that serves 400 beers (The beer menu is about the size of a dictionary.) Inspired by the previous museum visit, I had a chocolate beer (in the bottle on the right) and Brisket had a sampler. Everything was delicious.
The next day, we headed for Zeeland. We had talked about making the trek up to Amsterdam in the same weekend, but at an additional 4 hours of driving, thought the closer Zeeland made more sense.
We saw lots and lots of bicyclists, lots and lots sheep, and a couple of windmills. We also saw some strange trees that were tied together to form some kind of wall…has anyone seen this before in the States?
It was very relaxed- there’s not much to do in the area other than bike or visit the North Sea. Seeing as we didn’t bring our bikes, it was the North Sea for us.
Beautiful, right? Also, a bit windy.
While I’m sure the Zeeland region is great in the middle of summer, it was very quiet in March. More than once, I felt the urge to head back to Brugge. You know you need more excitement in your vacation when you want to return to a Gothic city for some nightlife.
The waffles were pretty good too.
I’ve discovered you never truly “buy” a bottle of beer in Germany. You buy the liquid inside the bottle…
Does the US even offer Coke in a glass bottle anymore? Other than those crazy-overpriced tiny ”collector” bottles?
Yes, I was a little confused at first too.
Anyway…In the US, you buy a glass bottle of soda. You drink the soda. You (hopefully) throw the bottle into a glass recycling bins. Done!
In Germany, if you follow those rules, you’d be throwing your money away… Germany has a bottle deposit system in place. You buy a glass bottle of soda, you drink the soda, then you return the bottle to the store on your next trip for a nice little sum off your final grocery bill. The bottles are then returned the beverage manufacturer, sterilized, and re-filled.
Most of the grocery stores I’ve seen have a very high-tech machine near the entrance where you place the bottles. The machine spins the bottle to read the UPC and then credits you a specific amount based on the make/brand/size of the glass bottle. Once you’ve returned all your bottles, the machine spits out a receipt with the total. You take that receipt to the cashier when you check out- and the amount is subtracted from your final bill- like an instant rebate or coupon.
We get back two to three euros each time we go the German grocery store (about once a month).
Still confused? I found a video on YouTube. (Nope, the woman is not me- I was going to film something similar, but kept forgetting the digital video camera.)
Which is why, on the night we go grocery shopping, we tend to have a milk crate of bottles sitting in the back of the car from the prior few weeks. The glass clanking as we go over speed bumps is worth every (Euro) cent.
If it seems like this blog had devolved into photos of all the places we visit on the weekend, you would be right. Between work, child-rearing, and traveling in the spare minutes we get, we haven’t been up to much around here…except watching for hints of Spring, and starting to plan for our move back to the States.
We’re at just over a month away now, so we’re trying to figure out what we send in advance, what we ship through our allotment, and what gets left behind. Somehow the things we’ve accumulated in the last six months seem to have multiplied. I know, I know! We made careful decisions on everything we’ve brought over and bought here so far- but I still find myself debating on how many towels we should ship home, and what we’re going to do with the one left the day we leave. Stick it in our luggage? Throw it out? Leave it for the next renter as an unexpected “gift”?
Back to the weekend traveling though. (Cause I know you’re only here for the pictures, right?) Every weekend until we leave? Booked up! It’s exciting, but a bit exhausting to think about.
Last weekend was the area my father’s relatives came from in Germany, and then Bamberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Considering we were only gone a day and a half, we really packed it in.
Learning a bit more about my family’s heritage was interesting. My maiden name was greeted by the local Germans with a shrug of the shoulders…I guess we’re like the Smiths in that corner of the German world. It turns out though that beer is in my blood- or at least my extended blood- my extended family has been the owners of a brew house in Germany for over 200 years.
Keeping in the beer theme, we then headed to Bamberg which was about 20 minutes away, and contains nine breweries in it’s city limits. The beer there is a special “smoked” beer.
It…was interesting. This “delicacy” tasted like smoked sausage to me. I guess it has to grow on you?
At least the beer hall was neat.
They were also all about the architecture and embellishments in Bamberg. Especially for their city hall- conveniently located on an island in the middle of their river.
How, exactly, do you get the job of organ grinder? Is it a family profession?
The next day we headed to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Rothenburg is a perfectly preserved medieval German city- it wasn’t touched by the war- and has a medieval wall that you can walk on. It’s beautiful- and I would have loved to stay the night. I hear they have a great night-watchman’s tour.
Basically- “Any accidents on the wall are not our fault!”
No cars are allowed within the walls (except for the ones of the residents? I think?), which was good for a toddler insistent on running. It was also very picturesque. I had read somewhere that 75% of the population work in the town’s tourist industry. It was pretty quiet the day we went- but then it was colder than I thought it was going to be, so our wandering wasn’t as meandering as I had hoped.
The cold provided good excuse to get some coffee to warm up, and we were able to check out the local hobby of choice.
We also had forgotten Li’s hat- but we found a suitable alternative.
Yes, that’s my scarf wrapped around her head. Yes, she got a few strange looks from the Japanese tourists we encountered.
My only complaint with the weekend (other than the crummy weather)? With the exception of a couple of restaurants and gas stations, all the shops in Germany are closed on Sunday! It’s tough to really get the flavor of a town when everything is shut down on one of your prime traveling days….
We’re agreed on the Sunday German shopping options…
Next weekend? Another 2 for 1 weekend- we’re heading to Brugge, Belgium and the Netherlands. Any suggestions on places to see or eat?