Travel Back Thursday – Art

France, Travel

The quartier of Montmartre in Paris is known for its artistic and bohemian nature. I am not especially artistic.  I decided to learn how to paint a few years ago because I wanted to make something to put on my bare walls at home.  Once I had solved the problem of bare walls, I more or less stopped painting.  I do continue to make pottery and take pictures, but I don’t tend to equate my efforts to anything moderately artistic.

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I find that this area of Paris is beautiful, inspirational and calming. It is like a perpetual big art fair.  I think it is great that even though I do not go to Paris that often, things remain the same.

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December 27 – Sondersdorf

France, Travel

December 27 – Sondersdorf

It was actually the fist sunny day we had since leaving Canada today. It was amazing. I was really missing the sun. I guess we had 1/2 a day of sun in Frankfurt, but today was splendid.20161227_110642

After a fantastic breakfast of pain au chocolate, Mme. S, Shawn and I went for a little walk along the forest paths around their little village. However, we covered some serious ground. We saw the Swiss boarder and the German boarder, walked through a couple of little towns, and hiked up to some beautiful castle ruins. In all. We walked about 11km and it was sunny and beautiful the entire time. It was great. I have missed exercising over the last week or so!20161227_122253

We had a traditional dish for lunch which was sausage, potatoes, and cooked cabbage for lunch. I was resistant to the cooked cabbage, but it was really quite good. I was surprised! Sophie, Dani, Shawn and I raced out of the house right after lunch as we were running a bit behind. We were off to go see the Écomusée in Alsace. It is kind of a heritage park idea.20161227_115712

Where there are houses from the past showing the evolution of the people and culture ad architecture over the ages. It was really good as I was able to learn a bit more about this unique area of France.

I think Sophie and Dani wanted a night out but Shawn and I got super excited about visiting the local supermarket and I think we put a damper on their restaurant plans! Lol. We are so easy when we travel I think it is sometimes hard for people to appreciate I can actually relax and just enjoy the moment as that is so not me in real life!

In any case, we didn’t manage to find a restaurant after visiting the awesome supermarket to buy cheese, so we made our way home – by a cut through road that is actually closed for a few weeks a year when a rare species of frog hops across the road! It was funny to learn that.

We had an amazing dinner of salad, cheese, meat, and bread. It was great. Perfect, actually. We even pulled out one of the sausages we bought in Frankfurt to add to the dinner! Yum!

It was the last night in France. It was such a great visit. It’s always sad because I don’t know when I’ll be back. But it was a great visit.

Later

-Allison

Dec 26 -Boxing day Train Ride

France, Germany and Austria, Travel

December 26 – Train

Today was not that exciting, really. We woke up a bit earlier than normal so that we could make sure all was packed and organized and ready to get off the boat by 8am. We had some breakfast and my last cup of hot chocolate before we dragged our suitcases off to the dock. And then we waited and waited and waited for our very late taxi to arrive. It was a little bit stressful by the time it finally arrived and took mom and dad to the bus station and us to the train station.20161226_084528

Shawn and I had quite the connections to get to Sondersdorf! We took one train from Nuremberg to Frankfurt. Then we had 15 minutes to get on our other train to go to Mannheim. Then we had 9 minutes to change to the next train to go to Basel (or Bale). Thankfully all of hate connections and seats went well. We didn’t make reservations on any of the trains because we had a Eurrail pass so could get on whichever train we wanted as long as it was marked on the ticket. I was impressed with how smoothly things went as it has been a while since I took a bunch of connecting trains in Europe.

When we arrived in Basel, we stopped at the first train station (the smaller, downtown station) and got on the little tram that goes throughout the entire city. We got off on the far end of the tram because this is the closest place for the Sophie and Jean-Marc S. to come get us. It was great that they were able to do this!20161226_151256

By the time we had driven back to Sondersdorf, it was practically 4pm. We had a few presents for Laure and they had a few chocolates and perfumes for us. It was lovely. Dinner was great too – it was this flaky Pastry thing with a creamy sauce of mushrooms and chicken on top. It was fantastic. It was also pretty funny because I 20161226_165408had just talked about how much I hate little green peas…and they had planned to serve them for dinner. Lol. Talk about putting my foot in my mouth!

Overall it was a great day. I always appreciate how close all the countries are here compared to at home. It makes for great, easy visits, which is awesome.

Later,

-Allison

Dec 19 – Aspache Des Bas and Strasbourg

France, Travel

Dec 19 – Aspache Des Bas and Strasbourg

It was very foggy out when we drove to Aspache des Bas for a lunch time meeting with friends of Mme and M. S. Joel and p1000115Frédérique came to Canada with M and Mme S last June when they did their 2 week stint in Alberta and British Colombia. It was great to see them again, even though I was not quite up for eating yet. Making progress, however! And it is always awesome to see people at their homes and be the guest when they have already visited. I love being able to visit so many people I know when I visit France. I am quite lucky that way.

p1000111We were served an amazing meal full of big dishes that are typical Alsatian food. In fact, Joel and M. S. actually talked on the phone to plan out their meals so that there would be no overlap and so that they served the right things to us to represent the region! Quite awesome. They also served the most amazingly huge plate of cheese I have ever seen. It was like being in cheese heaven. I actually ate a couple of tiny pieces! Yeah!

Right on schedule, we departed and said good bye to everyone so that we would have time to visit the Strasbourg Christmas market before it closed at 8pm. We didn’t have any trouble driving to Strasbourg. However, apparently everyone had the same idea as there was a huge traffic jam in order to get into the parking towers on the outskirts of the city. 20161219_172016The interior was closed as the Christmas market was blocking all of the downtown core. We finally were able to park in the parking lot “Les Halls”. And then we proceeded to wheel our four suitcases along the cobblestone streets, through the crowds and across the Main Street to get to our hotel – Maison Rouge. It was pretty much the perfect hotel for the Christmas markets. p1000175It was right by the main square where the large Christmas tree was located. We visited the Christmas tree square, the market des Or, the cute little streets, and the many markets by the big cathedral. It was cold but so Christmassy.

p1000164After putting on a few more layers, we met up with Sophie, Laure, and Dani. It was so good to see them again, as always. We had brought some presents for everyone, which was really fun as Laure is at such a cute age. And despite it being a cute age, it was impressive as she then proceeded to walk outside with us visiting all the Christmas market stalls in the cold for another 2 hours! And it was cold!! By the time we made it back to the hotel, I couldn’t feel my feet or hands. It was great though. I definitely like this Europen Christmas spirit more than our buying Canadian Christmas spirit.

I think I will be almost back to normal tomorrow. I am planning on it! After all, we get on the ship tomorrow and I have some serious food to consume!

Night

-Allison

December 18 – Sondersdorf and Alkirch

France, Travel

December 18 – Sondersdorf and Alkirch

I am out of commission this morning. Everyone else is going to an Abby close by in Switzerland. And I am seeing nothing more than this room and the room with the porcelain bowl next door. Later.

I ventured back downstairs around 2pm as everyone was finishing up their lunch. Or so I thought. Because there is a language barrier here, funny things happen when I am not around to interpret. So, the table is often set with little wrapped desserts to decorate – especially around the holidays. However, Mme S. forgot to put them on the table before they started with their appetizers and first course. So, when she saw that the chocolates were missing when they went to go get the main dish of fish, she put them on the table. However, because my family didn’t really understand what was happening and are severely out of the France customs of a big lunch, all three of my Canadian family went ahead and ate their chocolate desserts…about 2 minutes before I had to visit my porcelain friend again and saw that the main course had, in fact, not yet been served. Lol. So they all ate their main course after they ate their chocolates. It was pretty awesome. There are LOTS of courses per meal in France. Just always remember that! J 20161218_175158

I decided I would try and venture out of the house in the late afternoon to go to Alkirch to listen to a children’s chorus from Strasbourg perform in the local church. The town was beautifully decorated for the Christmas season. Beautiful garlands around doors with little twinkly lights in the trees. Cute little window boxes with wooden ornaments made every house look decorated. Things that were so simple and clean-cut – and very uncommercialized. It was lovely. The only thing that made me laugh was that at the end of their downtown pedestrian street there was a large imported skating rink. So people could rent skates and skate around while little wooden shacks around sold Gluhwine and snacks and nuts. It was still spectacular, though.

The children’s chorus was honestly one of the most amazing things I have ever heard in my life. I am so glad I went. It was wonderful. It was in a beautiful church at the end of the walking street. The area was very busy, but the concert itself was not attended by that many people. There were maybe 25 kids altogether and the oldest may have been 14 years old. There was basically no p1000096accompaniment for the first half as the only instrument playing was a harp. And the music the harp was playing was often another tune than the one the children were singing. They sang such lovely, and challenging harmonies to completely untraditional Christmas songs that it sounded more like beautiful Gregorian chants than Christmas songs. It was really wonderful. In the second half, the children sang up with the organ. The sound filled the church and was very wonderfully done. I was very impressed and very glad that I was able to attend. Definitely one of the top “Christmas Concerts” I have ever attended.20161218_175511

I still wasn’t able to eat dinner. But I am sure it was awesome. My plan is to be better by tomorrow! We are doing a bunch of driving. So that would be nice!

Night

-Allison

Dec 16-17 Europe Christmas

France, Travel

Dec 16 and 17 – Frankfurt and Sondersdorf

We left on our exciting trip to France later than anticipated today as the flight was a bit late leaving Calgary. It wasn’t a big deal though as we were flying direct to Frankfurt. It is so nice when that happens so that the flight isn’t stressful at all.

The flight was fine, but unfortunately for me I definitely got hit with the flu really hard about 2 hours into the 9 hour travel time. I didn’t really know it was the flu because I kept denying that I was not healthy, but by the time we landed I was so hot and cold and could barely stand –I knew it was a bad thing! But that’s how traveling and life goes sometimes. Lol. I haven’t had the flu in forever, so might just as well get it on the plane going on holidays!

We picked up our car rental at the Frankfurt airport. We rented from Europcar and it was only $80 Canadian for an oversized hatch-back for 4 days! It was a great price. Definitely faster and cheaper than taking the train for people.

It was relatively easy to find the autoroute that headed towards Sondersdorf. We all were tired, but Shawn navigated in the front seat while dad drove and I tried not to hurl while sitting in the back with mom. It was 20161217_073316a boring drive because we weren’t taking the scenic route, but rather taking the fastest one possible so we could get to Sondersdorf. I think it was a bit of a boring drive but dad did great. We had to pull off into a couple of rest stops – to get coffee and to have a nap. Everyone in the car had a nap for 30 minutes except for Shawn who was all hopped up on coffee by that point!

We arrived in Sondersdorf where M. and Mme. S were excited to see us and greeted us with a great “apéritif” and some mini pastries with cheese and ham. It all (looked) so good…and I was told it was excellent!20161217_103935

Dinner was also fantastic – I choked back a couple of bites, which, as it turns out was a bad idea…but it was a delicious ham and potato dish that is typical for the Alsatian region of France.

We were all tired and happy to be in such a nice, warm, friendly place for the next couple of nights.

p1000086Let’s see if I make it through the night…lol…kind of.

Night

-Allison

Travel Back Thursday – Fun

France, Travel

I am allergic to horses. Not deathly allergic by any means, but enough to make them not my favourite animal out there.  I think that they are fun and smart and to see a horse-pulled buggy while in Alsace, France made my day.  It is one thing to see horses pulling things at Stampede or at Heritage Park, but in a place where the streets are legitimately still cobblestone and the houses are timber framed, the horses just fit in perfectly.

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