Friday, May 8, 2009

Ahhh... a relaxing weekend...

The reason I'm so excited to have a chilled-out, relaxing weekend is that I've been traveling for the past two. At the end of April, we went to Barcelona (which, if you're reading this, presumably you've read about) and last weekend we went to the Alsace region of France, which is right on the German border; in fact, at various points in history it has been in Germany and not France.

We started off by visiting the quaint, adorable town of Colmar. I don't think there's a place in the world that has more crooked, charismatic streets bursting with crooked, charismatic, half-timbered buildings as Colmar. It's one of those places that one photo cannot do justice because part of its charm is the collective effect of so many leaning, centuries-old buildings.

We had drinks on a canal,

dinner in a quaint little place (the whole town is a fairy tale),

and strolled a bit more to see the 'Little Venice' area of town.

By the time we hopped a train to Strasbourg for the evening, we were already enamored with Alsace.

Strasbourg is the main city in the region, and though often overlooked by mainstream tourists, somehow manages to be both charming (it feels surprisingly small despite its massive and impressive cathedral) and bustling (because of its symbolic position on the Franco-German border, it is the capital of the EU and the seat of the EU parliament).

The next morning, we caught a train and then a bus (which oddly enough we had to ourselves) to Haut-Koenigsburg, a castle that, despite being in France, was built and rebuilt exclusively by Germans (because, again, the land has passed back and forth between them for centuries). It was by far my favorite castle experience thus far.

From there, I had a surprise for Teriann.

Me: "Now honey, it was quite a doing to get here, what with the train and bus and all; so I have a surprise for you. Something way cooler than the castle to make the journey worthwhile."

Teriann (without missing a beat): "We're getting engaged!?"

Imagine my confusion when my wife asks me if I'm going to propose to her.

Me: "No..... we're married. You enjoy feeding squirrels in Hyde Park, right?"

Teriann: "Yes!"

Me: "Okay, what would be cooler than squirrels?"

Teriann: "Manatees?"

Me: "Yes, that would be cool, but, no."

Teriann: "Elephants?"

Me: "No."

Teriann: "Ummm... tigers?"

Me: "No, it's something we're going to feed."

As the narrator of this riveting tale, I'll take the liberty of skipping the next few minutes of this conversation and get right to the answer to the question: Monkeys!

Yes, that's right, as random as random comes, there is a Macaque sanctuary in the hills of Alsace (only a few minutes down the road from the castle), where we spent two glorious hours making furry, strangely-human friends.

Needless to say, this was probably the highlight of the trip.

We spent the rest of the day rummaging around Strasbourg, including the surprise of the city: the magnificent cathedral.

I know that it's tiresome to keep hearing about things that pictures don't do justice, but it's one of the best things about traveling: seeing in person things that photos can only capture part of. Strasbourg Cathedral is the most massive, most intricate Gothic building I have ever seen. It makes Westminster Abbey look plain and humble.

The rest of Strasbourg was equally beautiful. We stopped for a drink in the 'Little France' area, which was probably one of the most pleasant hours I've spent anywhere.

We had dinner at the restaurant 'Au Pont St. Martin' (on the St. Martin bridge), which was more charming than it was tasty; not it wasn't tasty, but look how charming it is!

And with that, it was on to our last day. Monday was a Bank Holiday, so we were lucky enough to have a three-day weekend. Monday was the day we were in four countries: we woke up in Strasbourg, took a train to Freiburg in Germany, and had to take a train to the edge of Switzerland to fly back to England. Phew...

I know this has been a long post, but one last about Germany: I love it. Before Monday, all I had seen of Germany was Berlin, which I had mixed reactions to. Freiburg, however, is a charming little college town. And the food! Immediately upon arrival in the train station, I grabbed a pizza-ish snack; down the road, I got a cinnamon roll-ish pastry; at the farmer's market around the cathedral in the center of town, I got a pear. I love Germany!

The town itself was also quite pretty.

What a way to spend a weekend —even if it is tiring!

There are two facebook albums for this trip:

Colmar, Castle, and Monkeys
Strasbourg and Freiburg

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