The List: Favorite Trips Of All Time.

This post is dedicated to all the travelers out there.  We often get inquiries about our favorite places that we have visited outside of the US.  Before we forget, we wanted to leave detailed notes on our top picks in rank order.    Instead of putting it as a post and making it impossibly long to scroll through, we have created a new page on the site here.   You can find it in the future on the top menu of the blog. We pledge to continually update it through our travels!
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Colmar’s Marchés de Noël

Colmar is a picturesque town in the Alsace region of France known for its lovely Marchés de Noël, or Christmas markets.     I have wanted to check out the town for quite some time, regardless of the season, but it never worked out.   Now with a departure date ticking down, I knew this Christmas would be my last chance.     I’d set up two potential dates to go.  The first one called for rain/snow and temperatures of 33.  It wasn’t very appealing to have a temperature hanging at the freezing mark but not committing to freezing ( and thus snow which is better than rain), so Plan B became the fall-back.

I awoke last Thursday (Plan B) to another forecast of rain and 33 degree temps.   But a little freezing rain wasn’t going to stop me this time, especially with it being the last chance!   I took off, connecting in 3 towns, for a trip of about 3 hrs & 45 minutes through Northern Switzerland and into Eastern France.

I had about five minutes of no rain where I captured a few photos.

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Then, the rain showers came…and continued.  It even started snewing, which is my word for the wet thick fat snow / rain combo.   While I love snowing, I don’t love snewing.  It doesn’t stick, but just makes everything wet.  It was interesting to balance the umbrella and take photos!

 

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I ended up staying a few hours to visit all five of the markets in Colmar, and coming home very soggy.  However, I am happy to have gotten my fill of Alsace Christmas beauty, as evidenced in these snapshots.

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If you are ever in Alsace, I have heard from friends that the wine road is really cool.    My PT recommended biking it in the summer.  S & S loved exploring it as well as some of the other quaint Alsace towns.  While I didn’t have it in me this trip, I’ll provide a few related posts to this area below:

Related posts:

Living in Geneva:  Deck the Halls

Schwingen in Switzerland:  Too Much Can Get You Alsauced, Alsace’s Wine Route (Route du Vin) 

Schwingen in Switzerland:  Colorful Colmar

Schwingen in Switzerland: Euguisheim, The Cutest Town In The World?

Schwingen in Switzerland:  The Malgre Nous, Forced To Fight Against Their Country of Birth During WWII.

Christmasy Carouge

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Geneva is Carouge.   It just has a beautiful feel to it, with an influence of Mediterranean in its architecture and its many artisans for residents.  In fact, you can often see them working away in their shops, making everything from hand.

As December arrives, Carouge dresses up in the finest Christmas decorations to show its spirit, and also make its lovely shops inviting.  Last week, my photo group met up for a drink and to take some photos of this great neighborhood.   Here are some of mine:

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The moon and the Christmas tree

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An example of the lovely storefronts

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Frosty leading the way

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Many have beautiful garland like this

And also there are the Santas!  Every shop has one, but they are slightly different in dress.

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Some are even themed to their shop!

 

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Santa at the eyeglass store

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A pink Santa

 

Merry Christmas!!

 

 

Scotland’s Countryside

We thought as long as we were all the way in Edinburgh, we should see some of Scotland’s countryside.    We’d booked a small bus tour, a twelve seater, out of Edinburgh on Grey Lines for Saturday.   It picked us up at 8:45 in the morning.

Our first stop was Glasgow where we saw the cathedral where St Valentine is buried as well Georges Square.    We were then onto Loch Lomond and had the option of taking a boat tour.   Although chilly, we decided to take the plunge into the water on the small vessel.  We delighted in lovely Scottish views.

Taking off down the river towards Loch Lomond

Taking off down the river towards Loch Lomond

Chilly mountains in the background

Chilly mountains in the background

Castles abound

Scotland has great architecture

Why not have a scotch on the boat?

Why not have a scotch on the boat?  When in Scotland….

We then continued to the town of Aberfoyle and onto Duke’s Pass where we viewed ‘the Highlands in Minature’.    Our uber-short time in Scotland (36 hours on the ground) didn’t leave time to go to the Highlands, in the North part of the country.    Nevertheless, the scenery in the midlands was really neat and we enjoyed the unique animals.

Duke's Pass

Duke’s Pass.  Our driver said not to worry about the ‘slipping’ as we rounded each bend on the icy pass. 

Why, hello.

Why, hello.

We ventured on to Stirling and had an opportunity to explore.   While we didn’t go into the castle, we had a good time meandering around.  We tried not to fall down on the rock solid ground and icy paths.  And, when we got too chilly, we headed to a local pub for a scotch.

Monument to William Wallace, near Stirling

Monument to William Wallace, near Stirling

A path leading to Gabe, taking it all in

An icy path leading to Gabe, taking it all in

Beautiful sunset on Stirling castle

Beautiful sunset on Stirling castle

While we were continually cold that day, we’ll always have warm memories of Scotland.

Finding shelter in a scotch house

Finding shelter in a scotch house

Lights Out in Edinburgh

We never saw Edinburgh when it was truly light……we arrived after dark Friday evening, spent the entire Saturday on a countryside tour which departed before the sun was fully up, and departed for the airport at 8:00 Sunday morning.

But, still, we enjoyed seeing this beautifully historic city.  We found it vibrant, active and loved the architecture.  Below are a few images:

Walking home at midnight after our visit to the scotch house

Walking home at midnight after our visit to the scotch house

Sun rising on our hotel, The Carlton

Saturday sun rising on our hotel, The Carlton

A view of the Christmas fair down on Princes Street, still with the moon in sight

A view of the Christmas fair down on Princes Street, still with the moon in sight

The city perched on the volcanic cliffs.  Edinburgh castle is in the distance...

The city perched on the volcanic cliffs. Edinburgh castle is in the distance…

Castle watching the sun rise over the city

Edinburgh Castle watching the sun rise over the city

Saturday night at the German Christmas markets in Edinburgh

Saturday night at the German Christmas markets in Edinburgh

An early morning walk on the Royal Mile

An early morning walk on the Royal Mile

We had the castle to ourselves.  Gabe watching the sunrise before we went to the airport

We had the castle to ourselves. Gabe watching the sunrise before we went to the airport

If you’d like to see Edinburgh at daylight, check out this blog for some fantastic images.   If you fancy a trip to Edinburgh, M also has some great tips on off-the-beaten path places to see. 






The crooked little town of Troyes

As I mentioned last week, if we are on a road trip, we love to discover interesting places to stop on the way home.

As we left Champagne around 11am, our lunchtime fell in the town of Troyes, France.  We parked and while exploring a place to grab some food, soon designated this as the most crooked town we’d ever seen.   No, not because of any shady deals that took place.  Literally, the architecture:

Do you think the floors are level in the yellow house?

Lonely Planet highlighted an alley way called the “tiny street of the cats”, and it was crooked as well.

Gabe and Marty McFly near some teetery houses. Both being finance guys and very orderly, they were both going into hyperbolic shock from the unevenness.

Even me, who hangs up the most crooked of photos and pictures and can’t draw a straight line to save my life found it uncomfortable!

Another crooked yellow place

While you might not be able to live this way permanently, Troyes was still pretty cute.

Architecture in Troyes, France

Adorable street in Troyes

Lovely architecture & skyline

By the way, in French, Troyes isn’t pronounced Troys or Troy but Twaaaah.   Before I mastered this knowledge, the French would have considered my speech a little crooked as well!

Reims: Not just a Champagne town

During our stay in Champagne, we selected a hotel in the city of Reims (Rheims in French). Before our arrival, we had no clue how historically significant the town was.

Main square in Reims

Our first night in Reims, with Marty & Jennifer McFly, all we knew of Reims was champagne….

However, as I stated on last week’s Gratitude Friday post, our champagne guide was a bit of a history expert.   While exploring the rolling hills of the Champagne region, we also had the benefit of a history lesson.   We learned that the tribe of Remi founded Reims.  Caesar invaded the Gauls and in 51BC conquered it with the help of the tribe of Remi, whom he rewarded for their help.

Image courtesy of peperonity.com

From then, It was a Roman city.  They built the triumphal arch in 200AD, largest arch outside of Rome.

Roman arch in Reims

In the 5th century, Clovis became the first king to reunite all the territories within France.   He was baptized at the site of the current Basilica St Remi in Reims.  His armies converted to Catholic Christianity in the same way Clovis did, per the traditions of the time for soldiers to follow their leader.  From that point on, Reims became the religious center of the region.

Basilica St Remi

Inside the basilica, with Sunday services in the front

From then on, all kings were coronated in Reims.   Most occurred in the Cathedrale Notre Dame.   Most famously, Joan of arc stood by King Charles XII during his coronation ceremony after her vision to help him become monarch and overthrow Britain’s control.

Cathedrale Notre Dame in Reims

Visitors are able to see the structure on Sundays, but just not the back where the service takes place

Inside of the cathedral with its’ magnificent stain glass windows

Soon, Paris overtook Reims in size and became the most prominent city in France. However, this change didn’t keep Reims safe in WWI when it was seen as a symbol of France’s rich history and bombed 1051 consecutive days in a row, destroying over 90% of it.  This was known as the ‘crime of Reims’.   Since, they have repaired and rebuilt, but the impact was devastating.
As discussed last Friday, also in WWI, Reims saw the 1st battle of the Marne and advent of trench warfare.   Sadly, Reims and the surrounding countryside has seen more than its fair share of bloodshed.
WWII treaty was also signed in Reims after the German surrender.