We had purposely stayed in a motorhome park overnight in Freiburg to make use of the (paid) WiFi so I could do some research/study for an upcoming job interview. I gave up last night, and after struggling with terrible connection quality (due to terrible RF design decisions), I gave up again this morning and agreed to just get the day started.
It didn’t take long to reach France, the first and last country we’ll visit on this trip. We’ve spent a lot of time in France, and it’s always nice to be back. It’s actually (and technically) the sixth time we’ve entered France on this journey. It’s quite surprising how the smallest things like road markings and street signs can give a feeling of nostalgia – but they do.
Our main sight to see in this Alsace region of France was the town of Colmar. We’d found a cheap street park just outside of the old town. We hadn’t noticed at the time, but across the road there was actually dedicated parking spots for motorhomes. The motorhome friendly cities are just one of the signs that we’re back in France. Not that I understand more than a few words, but still it was nice to hear French being spoken again. It’s not that I especially like the language (it’s far too whispery for me), but it’s just like hearing the voice of an old friend again.
It didn’t take long to see why it was so highly recommended. We might have only been walking through a shopping district, filled with most of the same high-street stores we see in just about any other town, but the buildings themselves were stunning. I tended to concentrate my focus just above ground level, filtering out the distracting retail chains at street level.
It was quite different to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, which was also an incredibly beautiful old town. However, Colmar felt like a regular town still, with regular locals doing their regular shopping and living regular lives. It just so happened that their shops were housed in these beautiful old wooden buildings.
It still had that Theme Park feel about the place, with the warped, tortured shapes and vibrantly coloured buildings almost feeling comical.
One of the main sights in town is the Little Venice. I do love that any time a town has some canals, it’s compared to Venice. Anyway, there were some canals, and some beautiful houses that lined it – much like Venice. The little in Little Venice was also accurate, as it was really quite… little. They were busy preparing for the Christmas markets, so it was in the weird adolescent phase of not being beautiful and original, but not yet fully transformed into the new form.
We stopped in the large undercover market to sample some of the local foods. We bought a few local saucisson (sausages) as well as something that seemed like an interesting regional fusion – pretzel with Munster cheese. Yes, it was tasty.
After lunching, we continued to aimlessly walk around, finding a few new buildings, or seeing some older ones from new aspects. It was still rewarding, but not like the first time our eyes caught sight of the town.
Just a very short drive to the west was the small town of Eguisheim. We had a little time to kill before meeting friend’s parents for dinner, so went for a quick exploration.
It was quite a weird town to visit, as it was set about a circular path. We started walking clockwise along the inner road, with the street constantly disappearing just around the corner. It was oddly disorientating walking on this constant curve, especially when the houses looked both unique and repetitive. There were previously outer ramparts, however they were removed once they were considered unnecessary.
It felt much more intimate and genuine than Colmar had, though also quite similar. They were smaller versions of the colourful wooden buildings, set along the same awkward cobbled lanes.
We weren’t sure if we’d walked an entire circuit, or only half – and probably wouldn’t have known without checking our location on our phones. I would have happily walked another circuit, but we didn’t have unlimited time – and since we didn’t pay for parking (it was set at a day rate, rather than an hourly one) I was slightly paranoid about a parking fine.
The centre of town was also busy preparing for the Christmas period, with the construction of loads of market stalls in various states of completion.
We were also seeing the final stages of the grape season, having arrived in France at the beginning of Spring, returning through again in the midst of Summer, and now with the barren vines weighed down with plump bundles of grapes.
Christophe, our friend from Val d’Isere’s parents live in the Alsace region. We’d gotten in contact, and were lucky enough to be invited to join them for dinner. We’d met them in Val d’Isere during winter, and shared a great feast of raclette.
Once again, we were thoroughly spoiled and treated to a fantastic meal (and equally fantastic local beer/wine). It was a great night of conversation about some of the cycle touring that they’ve been on – including Madagascar! I hope to be able to do journeys like them one day.
In a touch of good fortune, I was somewhere warm and comfortable for my phone interview. I was speaking with people in Australia, so with the timezones, the call was scheduled for 6AM. I was a little worried about doing it inside a cold car, with possibly spotty mobile reception. It was really nice to be able to relax in their warm lounge room – and be in a city with a solid mobile connection. Sadly, I wasn’t successful with the job application – though, it took nearly five more weeks until I received the rejection.
We had a big day ahead of us, but before making our way towards Dijon, we joined them for breakfast. We had these curious pastries called manala, which were little brioche Saint Nicholas effigies. They’re for a special day in December (5th?) but we had them with our coffee this morning. We saw them for sale while we were walking around Colmar yesterday, but had no idea of the significance. Oh, and speaking of coffee – we had it out of a bowl, rather than a cup/mug like I’m used to. I think it was the Alsatian style of drinking coffee in the mornings.
Before we left, we were given some champagne to take with us, as well as some (incredible) jams that he had made (strawberry with vanilla and cardamom, as well as a banana and apricot jam). I can’t thank this family enough for how well they’ve looked after us over the past year. I’m sorry that I didn’t grab a photo of us all together – I’m terrible at remembering to do this…
We had to leave early as Risa had made plans to meet her friend in Dijon this afternoon. It wasn’t that far to Dijon, but we were opting not to use the motorways, since the prices are unpredictable and expensive.