Hope you had a good week! We spent the first half of the week at La Villatte and going to our usual art/French/dancing lessons. The grass needed mowing again and we raked about 20 barrow-loads of walnut-tree leaves! The rest of the week we spent touring (we’re still away actually – back to La Villatte on Monday afternoon), this time heading north-east to Nancy, Luxembourg, Strasbourg and Colmar. Our drive home will take us along the foothills of the Jura – through Mulhouse and Besancon.
It took nearly 6 hours to get to Nancy – we can’t tell you what the scenery was like because it was foggy pretty much the whole way! Nancy is a reasonable-sized town with its main attraction being Place Stanislas, a huge square enclosed by regal buildings, with large, ornate, black and gold gates at each corner, a statue of the town’s founder (Stanislas) and a couple of other, more intricate statues.
On Friday, we drove further north to Luxembourg which is a lovely town, built on a large plateau and fortified by stone walls. The whole of the main town centre is car-free so it was a great place to walk around. On the way back to Nancy, we stopped in at Metz, also a nice town and again, great for pedestrians.We had a look round the cathedral and it was nice to hear the pipe organ being played while we were there. Although the area around Nancy and Metz is quite industrial, the towns themselves are classy and attractive.
Saturday saw us heading east to Strasbourg – we arrived just as the Christmas markets were opening and spent the day wandering around the town from market to market – they were in 13 different places around the town, each with a different emphasis such as food, decorations, gifts etc. In each place many of the stalls were selling mulled wine (heated red wine, enhanced with spices like cinnamon and ginger) – the whole town smelt delicious! The other speciality of the markets was sauerkraut and foie gras as Strasbourg is well-know for these two products. Their Christmas markets are the longest-running in Europe, having begun in 1576! The whole town was adorned with Christmas decorations but interestingly, not a Santa Claus in sight (I mean someone dressed up as him)! As well as Strasbourg being a very lovely town, it’s also home to the tallest and most elaborate cathedral in the world – it certainly is spectacular and dominates the skyline from wherever you are in the town. We spent half an hour at concert in the cathedral which included a large orchestra, a choir and a soprano – a bit too much culture for us outback mob!
On Sunday we headed for Colmar, stopping at a couple of places along the way – Chatenois first where, after wandering round for a few minutes, an eldery gentleman came out of his house and offered to show us round. It was a real treat actually, to have an impromptu guided tour and he gave us interesting information on the history of the place. Chatenois was continually under attack by the Swedes and the church, nuns’ quarters, cemetery and Bishop’s home were protected by two walls. Entry to the church area was by a series of four doors, each well-guarded and locked each night (leaving the peasants outside to fend for themselves!)
Our second stop was at Chateau de Haut-Koenigsburg, built by one of the kings of Germany and restored by Germany (when this part of France was German) but now belongs to France. It’s the second-most visited chateau in France after Versailles – lucky for us it’s not tourist season so, while there were a number of people there it wasn’t crowded.
After arriving in Colmar, we spent the afternoon wandering round the town – it’s fairly small but spectacular and, like Strasbourg, its streets and squares are at this time of year, decorated and turned into market places. Like Annecy, Colmar has a series of canals running through the town. It’s homes and buildings certainly reflect the germanic/alsatian style.
We’ve driven 14,000 kilometres in 16 weeks (usually in Alice we do 10,000 a year!) and have seen some amazing, interesting and beautiful places with still more to come.
The week ahead – back to La Villate on Monday, usual stuff Tuesday and Wednesday, catch the train to Paris on Thursday, return Sunday. Chance of snow this coming week!
Hope your week is great
Chris & David