Christmas in Colmar

December 8, 2017 – December 10, 2017

Colmar might be the cutest Christmas city in the world. It seriously looked like a fairy tale. Like maybe where Hansel and Gretel ate the gingerbread houses.

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And they sure do know how to throw a Christmas market. The whole town was decked out in it’s best green and red, and the markets sprawled across many squares into 5 separate markets.

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The tree pictured here was our designated meeting spot since Maddie’s phone was broken. Later on when we couldn’t figure out how to get back there, we decided it was a bad meeting spot.

After our bad luck with getting the dates wrong for the Ghent Christmas market the previous weekend, we were pleasantly surprised with all the festive cheer in Colmar.

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To get to Colmar, we flew into Basel with our friends Matt and Maddie and rented a car to make the short 45 minute drive to Colmar. There was bad weather in Amsterdam and many flights were cancelled, so we were really happy that our EasyJet flight wasn’t even delayed! However, it was a pretty bumpy take off and flight in general, where we were swerving from side to side on the runway on the way up. Kinda scary.

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We rented an AirBnb for the weekend and it was so quaint! As Maddie put it, kind of like Aunt Carol’s house in Ohio. There were cat statues everywhere, so naturally I loved it. The hosts left us a bottle of champagne and some cookies so we tried to order a pizza to settle in and play cards.

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Unfortunately the delivery guys at the Pizzeria 4 Saisons did not speak any English and as Tyler’s French didn’t cut it, so we hopped in the car to order in person (by pointing at things on the menu). This was a better strategy and we got some pizza, some heavy heavy tacos (loaded with french fries), a cheeseburger, and chicken wings. I think this place is probably better suited for late night food because it was pretty terrible, but we were starving so we ate it while playing Euchre.

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On Saturday our only plans were to visit the markets, so we slept in and enjoyed some coffee (out of the cat mugs) and a light breakfast at the AirBNB before heading into the action. Luckily there was a train station nearby that took us directly into town for free!

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I guess other people think that Colmar Christmas markets are pretty great too because it was significantly more crowded than Vienna and Ghent. Our first priority upon entering the market was of course Gluhwein and we got some adorable stocking mugs.

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Our time at the Christmas markets was spent wandering around in awe of the precious little town, in search for food / Gluhwein (aka Vin Chaud), and finding places to warm our toes indoors. Luckily, those are some of my favorite things to do!

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Some of the highlights were:

We found a bunch of really big dogs that I suspect were Newfoundlands who were used as search and rescue dogs. They were so cute and so big.

We went inside this restaurant that said it was full and asked if we could eat there and they let us! We had some flambee, which is basically a flatbread and some Christmas beers. It was a perfect spot to warm up.

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We learned that the guy who made the Statue of Liberty was from Colmar and saw the museum dedicated to him. The town had a bunch of little triangle shaped gold tiles around town that had a picture of the statue.

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We found some playing cards and were able to get in a game of euchre at the place we ate dinner

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We had a really good dinner

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We saw some sheep / goats with crazy eyes


It was such a fun weekend with great company that it almost makes up for the terrible Sunday. Our flight was at noon so we left the AirBnb around 9 to ensure we had enough time to drop off the rental and get through security. It started snowing pretty heavily on our way to the airport, but we weren’t too concerned. We got through security and got a quick bite to eat before heading to passport control. At passport control we learned that all flights to Amsterdam for the day were cancelled. We had three options: rent a car and drive 8 hours, take a train 7.5 hours, or fly out at 6am the next day which wasn’t guaranteed to leave.

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Apparently there was a huge snowstorm in Amsterdam and they shut down the whole airport. Since we weren’t sure of the road conditions in Amsterdam, we opted to take the train back. So, we took a bus to the train station, only to learn that it’s cheaper to take the train out of Germany than Switzerland. So we took a tram to the other Basel train station. Once there, we purchased train tickets to Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Since we were so late, we couldn’t get reserved seats and had to hop around each time there was a stop until ultimately settling in at the cafe where we could play cards.

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We all went through a serious rollercoaster of emotions when we realized that the 40 minutes we had allotted for our connection was dwindling. And then we stopped at some random stop for 20 minutes for no reason.

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Upon our arrival in Frankfurt, we raced to the platform our train was at and high five’d each other when we saw our train was delayed 20 minutes and would be arriving anytime. Then an announcement came over the loudspeaker in German and everyone got pissed off and left. We learned that the train to Amsterdam was missing a part and was cancelled. But we did get McDonalds which was a big plus for our hungry bellies.

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So we took a different train to the Frankfurt airport and waited for a train to Amsterdam. When we finally got on the train we were relieved that we were almost there and would arrive by 10pm (instead of our original flight which should have been in at 1pm). However, this train was a slow one. And we had to stand up for almost the whole journey. But we eventually got a table and played some cards and made it back to Amsterdam at midnight. Not quite the way I pictured myself spending my Sunday, but if couldn’t have been in better company. The Kroll’s even taught us their family card game!

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Oui Paris

October 13, 2015 – October 15, 2015

I went from having never visited Paris in almost 27 years to visiting in 3 times in 6 months. It never ceases to amaze me and there’s always something new to do. It’s quickly moving up the list of my favorite European cities.

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We booked this trip at the beginning of the year to go see one of Tyler’s favorite bands, a French electronic duo called Justice. I can’t say I was very excited about the concert, but I am always excited about the prospect of traveling, so he didn’t have to twist my arm very hard.

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Paris is just a short 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam, and you can bring your own wine on the train. We left after work with some friends and a few bottles of wine. By the end of the train ride we had taught them our favorite card game – Euchre. Upon our arrival in Paris, we quickly dropped our stuff off at the hotel and raced to our dinner reservations at Maison Blanche, which promised spectacular food and views of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately we didn’t get to sit on the balcony overlooking the E.T. to enjoy our food, but nevertheless, the experience was fun. We did get to enjoy an after drink cocktail (or water in my case) while watching the tower glow.

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To cap the night off, we visited Prescription, a fun little cocktail bar with a DJ who let me play with the turntables.

Our Saturday morning did not start very early after our late night. We had planned to do a Hop on Hop off bus tour around the city to take in as many sights as possible, but ended up just kind of walking around instead (and hitting over 20k steps!). We hit up the main attractions such as Notre Dame, the Seine, Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries, Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe. Walking up the 200 stairs to the top of the Arc is something I would definitely recommend. The Arc is the center point where 11 road converge like spokes of a wheel and it offers great views of the city.

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The main attraction of Paris as previously mentioned was the Justice concert. Although I was skeptical, I had an absolute blast. We got off to a rocky start when there was a mob of a line for the bar, but I made some new friends and we were able to get our Heinekens. Justice was such a party. We spent the night dancing and singing and watching the light show. Thanks to Ty for making me go.

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Sunday morning we woke up feeling great and got the most delicious crepes for breakfast overlooking the Pantheon.

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After brunch we took a stroll through the Le Jardin du Luxembourg and watched some kids play with sailboats.

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We spent most of our time on Sunday enjoying wine, cheese, and baguette with the Eiffel Tower as our backdrop, making one last pit stop for macaroons before we hit the train back to Amsterdam.

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‘Til next time Paris!

Champagne in Champagne

August 3, 2017 – August 6, 2017

For my 28th birthday, I decided to be basic and spend the day drinking Champagne in Champagne #Louvre&Veuve. I figured this was one of the only birthdays where I could make a request like this and have it granted.

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Reims, the largest city in the Champagne region, is easily accessible by train from Paris so we decided to spend a night there to kick start our weekend. We arrived in Paris just in time for our 9:30 dinner reservations at Alliance, a Michelin star restaurant where we did a tasting menu accompanied by wine pairings. The food was intricate and delicious, and the wine was also spectacular. Happy birthday eve to me!

Since we had to be in Reims by 3pm the next day for our tour of Veuve Clicquot, we did not get to see very much of Paris. However, we did spend the morning at the Louvre. We got there early enough that the line for tickets wasn’t too bad, but the place was still super crowded. The first thing on my agenda to see was obviously the Mona Lisa, so we headed there first because I couldn’t focus on anything else. Our friend told us the day before we went to not expect much and that the portrait was about the size of an 8″ x 10″ photo. Well, I was impressed because it’s actually bigger than that! But there was a huge crowd pushing and shoving to get a better look, so we didn’t admire her for too long. Instead we made our way through the museum stopping to see paintings of the French, Italian, Spanish, Northern Europe and British. It’s amazing how many works of art are in the Louvre that are centuries old. I just kept wondering where they all came from. The painting section was probably my favorite, but we also saw the Egyptian, Greek and Roman antiques which included many artifacts and sculptures.

I recently read a fiction book about World War II called the Nightengale (HIGHLY recommend if you’re into that sort of thing) and it talks about how many works of art were hidden during WWII so that the Germans couldn’t steal them. I’m glad that happened because I really enjoyed looking at all of the beautiful pieces.

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We only had a few hours, but I could have easily spent a whole day wondering through the many halls. I expected to be bored and ready to go, but I was disappointed to leave. I guess we will have to make another trip back to the Louvre!

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Although I was sad to leave the Louvre, I was excited for our first Champagne tasting at Veuve Clicqout. Getting to Reims was easy from Paris, but getting to our AirBnB in Reims was more challenging, specifically because I navigated us the wrong way from the train station, and as a result we were late for our tour. But, it was my birthday so Tyler couldn’t get mad. Luckily we caught up with the tour before they went down into the caves. Our tour guide was very professional and he explained the history of Veuve and the Champagne making process. It was actually very interesting and I was intrigued that Madame Clicqout took over her husband’s business at the age of 27 after he passed away. She grew the business into a thriving one that has lasted for centuries. Hearing this story motivated me to start rethinking my career goals.

After we had finished the tour of the caves, it was time to taste the Champagne. We had a few glasses with the others on our tour and were surprised to learn that 6 of the 8 people on the tour lived in Amsterdam. What a small world! After all of this Champagne we needed some food, so we finished the evening at L’Alambic. The food was absolutely delicious and even rivaled that of the Michelin star restaurant of the night before. We then headed back to the AirBnB to greet our friends Shannon and Noah (or as I like to call them, Shannoah) who drove to Reims after work. They also brought along their 7 week old Corgi named Teddy who is the cutest pup I know.

On Saturday, we woke up bright and early to begin our day of Champagne tastings. Because we were bringing baby Ted with us, we last minute upgraded to a private tour, so our tour guide picked us up in an 8 person passenger van for just the 4 of us. She was very knowledgeable about the Reims area and the Champagne making process and told us very detailed accounts of the history. We were all still a little sleepy so many of the stories did not resonate with me.

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Our first stop on the tour was at Godme Sabine located in Verzenay, a Grand Cru village. This was a medium sized, family run winery. We learned about the Champagne making process and took a tour of the grounds. We learned that Grand Cru grapes are of a higher quality and thus make the bottle of Champagne more expensive. The views of the winery were really cool and we also liked the Champagne so we bought a few bottles.

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We then drove around the area through the scenic hills and listened to another history lesson.

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The next stop was at Dominique Foureur in Ambonnay, a very small winery where the owner made us lunch. The four course meal was incredible with melon & prosciutto, breads & olive oil, salmon & rice, strawberries & whipped cream. I especially enjoyed the dessert and we all had seconds. I also really liked the fact that she has several cats and one HUGE dog, named OB-1. We enjoyed a few Champagnes with our food and also a some still wine. When grapes that are produced in the Champagne region aren’t up to Champagne standards, they can sometimes be used in the production of still wine instead. Interesting stuff.

Our last stop of the day was at the huge and famously known Moët & Chandon. We took a tour down into the wine caves and learned for the last time of the day about the Champagne making process. Maybe it was the fact that we had already heard this spiel 3 times now or possibly the fact that the tour guide was talking in a fake accent, but we did not pay attention very well at this tour. However, our tour guide sprang for the deluxe tasting for us at this place so we enjoyed some really good, expensive Champagne. I think that drinking Champagne in Champagne was such a great way to spend my birthday, and I was very thankful that our friends were able to join us as well. And Teddy did so great for being a 7 week old pup. He went accident free the whole day and basically just let us hold him the whole time.

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For dinner that night we went to a terrible tourist trap that I left a bad review for on Trip Adviser. I don’t remember what it was called, but seriously I’ve never paid for more inedible food. Afterwards, we had heard that there was some type of light show going on at the Cathedral in town, so we headed to check it out. I was blown away with the show! The lights were projected onto the Cathedral in different patterns with different music to tell a story. It was a good little surprise to end our trip to Champagne. On Sunday we packed it up and drove the 5 hours back to Amsterdam.

 

 

We heart Paris

April 30, 2017 – May 2, 2017

When I heard that my good friends Hope and Raney were heading on a Euro Trip to Amsterdam -> Paris -> Barcelona -> Ibiza, I knew that I wanted to join them on at least one of those legs. Since Paris just a short 3 hour train ride from Amsterdam, I thought that would be the most convenient leg to join, and as Hope says, everyone should go to Paris before they are 30.

I was excited to see my friends, but I wasn’t so sure about Paris. I had heard that the city was dirty and I’ve seen a lot of news recently that made me a little afraid. In addition, after arriving we learned that we were there on May Day which is a national holiday and pretty much everything is closed (including the Louvre and all clothing stores). We also learned after leaving the next day that there had been violent protests and we had several friends texting to make sure we were okay. Despite all of the things going against us, my expectations were greatly exceeded during our short trip to the magical yet expensive city.

Having never been to Paris before, we were a little overwhelmed with the vast amount of lodging options, but ended up choosing the Hotel Muguet in the 7th Arrondissement not too far from the Eiffel Tower. Upon our arrival on Sunday midday, our first tourist attraction stop was a cafe overlooking the Eiffel Tower called Café de I’Homme. We had grand ideas of sipping Champagne on the terrace with views of the Eiffel Tower in the background. In reality, there was a storm coming in so no one was able to sit outside, and the restaurant was really expensive and too fancy for what we were looking for. We had one glass of EUR 18 Champagne and walked across the street to a row of other bars in the Trocadéro.

Though Café de I’Homme felt stuffy, we felt right at home at the Café Le Malakoff (so much so that we ended up going back the next day). The food, desserts, Champagne and wine here were really good and not too pricey. The staff at the restaurant was very friendly as well. After our early dinner we took a few more photos of the Eiffel Tower and headed back to the area around our hotel to hit up some bars. We gave ourselves an early curfew since we had a full day of sight seeing the next day and our adventures in Amsterdam really took a toll on us.

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We opted to do a hop-on-hop-off bus to get around the expansive city. I had never done one of these types of tours before, but I must say it worked really well in Paris. Since the sights are so spread out we would have had to take Uber/subway everywhere, but the bus transported us to all the major sights and also gave background on the places we were going to visit. The weather was a little blustery, but we still sat on the top of the bus to get better views and only decided to get off at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame, but we also saw Opéra Garnier, Musée de Orsay, Champs-Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, and Grand Palais. During the stops we did some souvenir shopping and had some wine/snacks, and headed back to the Malakoff to get round two of french fries and Cafe Gourmand. I really enjoyed the concept and would definitely recommend Big Bus Paris.

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The coolest thing that we did though was a night cruise on the Seine to see the Eiffel Tower light show. The three of us were literally in awe of how beautiful it was when the lights were sparkling. Definitely breathtaking and cool to see from the water. The rest of the boat tour was kind of uneventful, but we entertained ourselves with the bottle of Champagne we had brought on board (because when in France, drink Champagne).

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My only regrets were that we did not get to go into the Louvre and that we did not see Moulin Rouge – but hey there’s always next time, and I am planning to go back to Paris later this fall.

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Very Nice

Very Nice

February 18, 2017 – February 19, 2017

It’s been a dreary few weeks in the Dam, so we headed south for the weekend to the beautiful French Riviera. The weather was absolutely perfect – not a cloud in the sky and no jacket necessary. Thank goodness I dug my sunglasses out of the bottom of my drawer for the occasion.

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The French Riviera is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go, although I have to admit I wasn’t really sure where it was. I just thought it sounded cool, and it was.

img_8841I have become obsessed with cactus since moving here ^^

Hiking Leisurely walking to the top of Castle Hill was one of the highlights of the trip. The views were amazing and up at the top was a cool little park. I also liked that there was a sign saying that the whole area was organic and no pesticides are used on the greenery.

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Since the weather was so nice we also decided to hang out on the rock bed beach for a little bit as well.

IMG_8850.JPGThat’s the most sun my tootsies have seen in ages.

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Although we were very excited to enjoy the nice weather, the main reason we came to Nice was for Carnival. The Nice Carnival is one of the largest in the world behind the Carnivals in Brazil and Venice. It’s basically like the Mardi Gras of Europe (having never been to Mardi Gras I can’t verify this assumption). I have to admit I was a little nervous about going to this crowded event due to certain events that have happened lately, however I had read that the officials stepped up security this year. That was very evident by the thorough pat down and airport grade metal detectors we were subjected to. Not to mention, there were several soldiers armed with machine guns marching around and I even spotted a few snipers on top of a building. Talk about nerve wrecking. I’m happy to say that everything went smoothly, and I did feel very safe.

The Carnival itself was really amazing, with outrageous floats and dancers in intricate costumes. During the day, all of the floats had flowers that the participants threw to the crowd.

During the night, the main thing thrown was confetti.

img_0787img_0824img_0798Hey, Mr. President

img_0819I know you’ve heard of Sharknado, but how about Snakenado??

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Since Nice is only a short train ride from Monaco, we decided to spend our Sunday with the high rollers in Monte Carlo. It was definitely a place you should go see, but there wasn’t a ton to do, besides drink a 6 Euro cappuccino while watching Bentleys, Maseratis, Porches, and Ferraris drive by.

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Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the casino was closed, so we didn’t get to try our luck at the tables.

It was truly a great first trip to France, and I can’t wait to go to Spain next weekend!

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Recommendations:
Pop-o-Thym – I read a review on TripAdvisor that someone got the best crepes they had ever had in their life at this place. And, I concur, the BEST CREPES I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE! Get the one with white chocolate, peanut butter, and bananas. YUM!
Hotel Rossetti – We stayed in this boutique hotel that was only 60 Euro for the night, and it felt like a 200 Euro a night place. It was also really conveniently located in the middle of the city. The only downside was that it was a little noisy.
Dinner – I can’t wholeheartedly recommend the place we had dinner at. It was outside of the touristy area because we wanted to check out the other parts of town, but it wasn’t worth it. The server didn’t know any English, not even how to say water. We managed to get by with Tyler’s limited French, but the Asians sitting beside us weren’t as lucky.