Saturday, September 2, 2017

2015: Laure's Surprise Birthday Destination: Colmar, France and Freiburg, Germany

One month until the little one was due to arrive meant that we had just enough time to make one more weekend trip. And this is my favorite type of trip; the mystery birthday trip. Q had a tall order to fill - finding somewhere interesting within driving distance (no flying this late in the pregnancy), and preferably somewhere we hadn't been before. He came up with a full extended weekend for us.
Road trip route.

First stop, Colmar, France

We had been to Colmar once before, early in the spring before the tourist season began. What a mistake. The whole place was deserted, shops were closed, the weather was cold and gloomy, and whole vibe of the town was utterly depressing. We ate lunch and immediately drove back home. We knew it must be better during the tourist season so we vowed to return.
Cold, windy, and deserted.

As expected, everything was much nicer in June. The streets were lively with tourists, flowers throughout were in spring bloom, the weather was bright and warm, and the shops were open. The small medieval town was a joy to wonder through. Since this is one of the few towns that escaped the bombing of the WW2, the center of town feels like you are transported back in time.
Not overrun with tourists but the place felt warm and cheerful.

We spent one night in the small town and were able to see many of its highlights. We had a few delicious meals and used the Rick Steves France book's self guided walking tour to get a feel for town and see its highlights.
Tucked away in the middle of the block, we found this amazing garden restaurant.
The largest lunch portion burger and potatoes I have ever seen. The baby and I tried but couldn't finish all this food.
The center of Colmar felt like a fairy tale village.
Historically this was the tanner's street.

Next stop, Freiburg, Germany

Just as spring rain shower arrived, we were on our way to Germany. We couldn't have planned the timing any better. During our drive, sheets of rain were coming down so fiercely that all cars on the autobahn were moving at a snail's pace - a bizarre sight to see on a road that doesn't have a speed limit.

Freiburg is a quaint small city with a young college feel. There isn't much to see besides the main Church/Minster but what little there was to discover we learned through the self guided tour in the Rick Steves Germany book. We're big Rick Steves fans if you couldn't tell.
Liking the young vibe in the Tapas Bar.
The Freiburg Minster is so large, I couldn't find a spot in the square to capture the whole building.
In the old town, the entrance to shops had their floor entrance decorated with its line of business.

By the early evening, the rain had stopped and everyone returned to the center of town to enjoy the warm spring night. We spent on evening wondering the historic center and soaking in the lively atmosphere.
Beer Garden in the center of the old town.

Side trip, The Black Forest

This day was originally planned as a lite hiking day but mother nature had other plans for us. With scattered rain showers throughout the day, we decided it would be best to do some joy riding through the black forest, visit the German Clock Museum, pop into a Ski Museum, and have a piece of black forest cake from several different bakeries.
Original ski touring equipment.
An unexpected find during our drive. The museum is housed in a cute chalet and housed more than we expected.
The coolest low tech alarm clock I have ever seen.
Blown away with the collection of Cuckoo clocks
Naturally, every bakery we stopped in had the Black Forest cake and each were delicious.
Another bakery, another cake to try.
And another.

I hate to say it but we were underwhelmed by how little we saw driving through the southern portion of the black forest. It was like a forest could have been almost anywhere; nothing too special. We would occasionally pass through a German village (and stop in a café for another piece of black forest cake) but no village was super charming. Perhaps this region is best enjoyed on a hiking trail rather than on the road.
Not too interesting but the roads were very well maintained.
One of the more interesting stretches of road.
Paying our parking ticket. Hehe, it says "Gute Fahrt!"

Friday, March 10, 2017

Paris with a bump

We couldn't resist one more kid free trip to Paris with friends. So once again we booked train tickets to the city of lights for a long weekend. I always thought of Paris as a place for young couple taking romantic walks, not wobbling pregnant ladies but Paris proved me wrong. I would even go as far as suggesting Paris as a possible babymoon destination.
Eight months and counting.

Like many of our trips to Paris, our plans involved a little bit of sightseeing, eating cuisine we can't find back in Switzerland, and shopping. Thanks to the low Euro value, it was perfect for stocking up on maternity/nursing clothes and baby gear.
Like many trip before, Vélib' was our preferred way of travel.

We decided this was a good time to finally visit the Louvre and the Orsay Museum. Who knows if our little one was going to be able to tolerate visits to the museum - so it was either now or maybe in 15 years. Soon after Q and I got to the security line at the Louvre, we were led by security to the front of the line. Turns out pregnant ladies and their partners get to skip the line! At the Orsay, we were led to the priority line! Even at the Bastille Sunday Market, I was waved by a vendor to the front of the line to buy produce. And at a busy espresso bar, with stand up counters, an employee of the shop offered me her stool. People even offered me their seat on the Metro. I thought Parisians never give up their seats on the Metro. Who knew the French have a soft spot for pregnant ladies?
Saved hours thanks to the bump.

No one pulled out the red carpet for me once we got inside the Louvre - I still had to elbow my way to the front of the ever present mob to see the Mona Lisa. We kept our museum visits short and focused. In our usual fashion, we followed the Rick Steves free audio guide through the Louvre and the Orsay, hitting the major highlights. His self guided tours are meant to roughly be one hour long, which is as much culture we could fully digest at a time.

We enjoyed seeing the highlights of the Louvre but really enjoyed the Orsay. The Orsay is in an old train station and many of its original architectural details can still be found throughout the museum. The main view greeting the visitors definitely left an impression on us. Our favorite floor would have the be the Impressionist Gallery on the top floor. That floor changed us into Impressionist fans.
It's either now or who knows when.
One is never too young for the fine arts.

Something Q might be a little embarrassed of is that when I go to Paris, I go shopping.... for American items. I always stock up on granola (which is almost as good as what I can get in San Francisco) and pick up a few other hard to find items like aluminum free baking powder, specialty baking supplies, and make-up. Sometime I even go to the GAP to feel like I'm back in the US.
It might be overpriced but it's cheaper than a flight to the US.

We also eat closer to our US diet in Paris. Burgers are all the rage and so is brunch. We also got some decent ramen. But of course we left room for great french food and drinks - virgin drinks for me.
American sized brunch.
Hard to find places like this in Switzerland.