Three last photos. I chose these as last pictures, not because that are the best or most beautiful, but because they represent something I loved about France. So many places we went, you never knew what was through the tunnel, or around the corner, or at the bottom of a stair. The anticipation of what awaited us was exciting. I was never disappointed.

Our French Adventure Comes to an End

We are safely home in Reading and it is back to normal today. Just to complete our story, here is one last account of our journey home.

We left Langensoultzbach at about noon. We packed and cleaned the gite, taking our time. We didn’t want to hit Paris at rush hours, so we were in no hurry to set off. As we were preparing, Marina stopped to see us to say goodbye. it was actually hard to leave, Marina and Eric had been so kind. She called Eric so we could bid him farewell, too. Then we left the lovely village.

One last stop at the Super U in Woerth for lunch and travel snacks, a picnic in a park and we we on our way to Paris.

The weather was excellent and the trip mostly uneventful. I discovered the EU way to play and old game - license plate collecting. Rather than states, I looked for European countries. I found 20 on our trip across France. I was particularly pleased with Estonia, Lichtenstein and Romania. It was more fun than states.

Steve did an amazing job with all the driving. We found the airport and the Hertz return without a hitch.

A long walk through airport terminals, brought us to the CDGVAL shuttle and our hotel. One thing about the airport - the signage was wonderful.

Our hotel was at a tram stop called Roissypole. Here were several hotels right in the middle of the airport. Ours was the Ibis Roissy. I am telling the name, because it was such a good experience. The staff was truly bilingual and gave some of the best customer service I have ever seen. The hotel wasn’t fancy, it looked more like an Ikea store - clean, modern, bright, cheerful, comfortable. The lobby seemed more like a meeting place for friends, than a lobby. There were a couple restaurants and a grocery store. Our room was comfortable, just right for a night before a flight. It was, most of all, very convenient to the airport.

Once we checked in, Steve went online to change our seats and get boarding passes. Emma and I were checked in to Boston, but Steve couldn’t check in past Iceland and the EU. The website said he wasn’t authorized for entry into the US. They recommended him talking to US Immigration and applying for a visa that would only take 4-6 days. I was panicked. Steve said that it wouldn’t be a problem and he would take care of it in the morning at Icelandair. Then he said, “Let’s go the Paris for dinner.” I was surprised, but we were all game to take the train back into the city.

We headed back to the Marais to the excellent falafel place we went to our first night. They claim to be the best falafel in the world, and they could be right! We all thought that when we left for Alsace, that we were “done” with Paris, but we were wrong. Paris was at its loveliest that night. Perfect weather, glowing twilight, cafes and streets full of happy people walking with family and meeting friends. It was wonderful! Our falafel was excellent and we all enjoyed the walk in the city. I am so glad we spent out last night in Paris, rather than a hotel room.

We jumped back onto the train, but it had a terminus three stops before the airport. We were shuttled back by bus. It took a lot longer, but we had no schedule to meet.

We got to the hotel at 12:15 and a had a wakeup call for 5:00.

Steve had no problem checking in to Boston and we had an uneventful trip back to Boston. Margaret and Caroline Donnelly Moran graciously met us at the airport. Although our trip was was excellent, it was wonderful to see our friends and get back to normal.

I think I can speak (or write) for the three Turners. I will ask them to add comments, if they like. This was a fantastic vacation. I love France. The country is beautiful and the people warm and friendly. I enjoyed spending time with Steve and Emma and am so appreciative that we we able to have this time, in such a an amazing setting to create some memories I will never forget.

Pictures from Langensoultzbach and Baden Baden, Germany
Close up of Roman carving in Greco Roman Exhibition in Langensoultzbach. Parking Lot sign in Baden Baden Emma and I loved. Trinkhalle, the visitor’s information center. Scenes from the beautiful Centre City of Baden Baden.

A mix of pictures from Langensoultzbach and Strasbourg. Welcome sign. Four views of Strasbourg. Haybales outside Langensoultzbach. Strasbourg Cathedral. Woods outside Village, note the strait line of planted trees.

Pictures from our stay in Langensoultzbach. Cake, wine, jams and honey to greet us in our kitchen. Our house. Langensoultzbach from a meadow road just outside the village proper. Two views from Chateau Fleckenstein. Maginot Line Bunker Four-a-Chaux. One of our favorite walks - the road from Langensoultzback to Matstall.

Popping Over the Border

The last full day in Alsace already? Seriously?!!!

Well, we decided to celebrate the 4th of July by invading Germany. Pretty easy, actually - a mere 56km (35 miles to our American friends and nostalgic Brits) jaunt to the east including an uncontested crossing of the Rhine, and Baden Baden was ours.

What a lovely spot, a somewhat grand spa town set in a narrow valley, with a relaxed feel. We wandered mostly round the old town center, feasting on elegant German cuisine (sausage with curry sauce and fries). We walked up and down  steep hills along quaint streets and shopped for souvenirs and ice-cream. It was fascinating to have traveled such a short distance and to be surrounded by a different culture and language.

Back in Langensoultzbach we got a personal tour of the local museum, in an annexe of the church. This was quite impressive, with many Roman empire carvings on display.

We are now back to sunny weather, and the author was able to relax au jardin and finish off the six-pack purchased earlier in the week.  We are invited to eat dessert with our hosts later this evening, and then tomorrow we hit the road, heading for Paris before our flight home early Saturday morning.

A Quiet Day in Langensoultzbach

We woke up this morning to rain.  Our first in Alsace.  We had nothing on the agenda, so we hung out reading, writing, computing and doing laundry.  After lunch we realized that  we only had two more days to enjoy this region. A look at a map indicated that Hunspach, voted one of the most beautiful villages in France, was a short drive from here.  A bonus was that there was another Maginot Line bunker in Schoenenbourg right next door.  Steve had thought about going back to the Four-a-Choux bunker near Langensoultzbach.  Our trip out fulfilled his history need and my need to see some more countryside.

We made the short drive to Hunspach, only to decide that most the villages we passed through we equally lovely (and more interesting), and ours is best of all.  Hunspach was pretty, but it looked like everyone was ordered to follow a scheme - white half-timbered houses with black shutters, plus red geraniums in the window boxes. On their own charming, but an entire village, dull.

Next stop, Schoenenbourg.  There were many more people at the bunker than I would have guessed. One full busload of teens, plus a constant line of seniors pulling up in cars.  It is so far out of the way, down a narrow one-lane road through a dark forest.  We checked out the tour.  It was self-guided.  Steve was interested.  Emma and I went back to the car to listen to a German radio station we found yesterday.  It plays a rotation of 80s songs, current pop hits and kind of strange German poppish songs from an era we couldn’t determine.  We were waiting for the German ones!

Another stop a the excellent Super U Supermarche in Woerth (we now know is pronounced “vert”), then home.

We are desperate to go to Germany tomorrow, but I can’t find a city nearby that seems worth the drive.  We will have to be creative on our last full day.  We are going to visit a small Greco Roman museum at the church in Langensoultzbach.  Also we have a invitation to dessert in the garden tomorrow night.

City Life - Reprise

A more ambitious attitude from the Turners today saw us up with the lark (or a least with whatever bird wakes up not too early, but not too late).

Today was our big-city trip to Strasbourg, about 30 miles south of us. Once more we were impressed with French public transportation, as we made use of a “Park and Ride” facility that allowed us to park short of the city center and whisked us into downtown Strasbourg by speedy tram.

Beautiful city, chock full of old half-timbered buildings, narrow streets, brightly colored flowers everywhere. We wandered through a street market shopping for souvenirs, ate lunch, visited the impressive cathedral, and walked by the river, generally acting like the tourists we were. [btw, reason to love Strasbourg: a street market stall was selling 1970s LPs by, amongst others, Sweet, Barclay James Harvest, and Jon Anderson. Almost wished I didn’t already own them so I could buy them again]. Anyway, this was another very warm day, and mid-afternoon we beat a retreat to our village hideaway.

Back at the ranch, we baked a pretty darn good batch of scones to share with our wonderfully generous hosts. Another evening stroll around the village rounded off the day.

Peace and War

It really is too bad we can’t get our photos onto the blog, as the part of France we are in is beautiful.

Monday we opted for a fairly lazy day; warm sun, blue skies, breakfast in the jardin; totally peaceful, interrupted only by the chiming of the village church clock and the odd tractor meandering down the street.

After lunch outside in the sunshine, we explored a couple of local villages. First stop was a Maginot Line fort, with crumbling concrete emplacements and an American tank parked outside [a post-WW2 M41 Bulldog]. This fort didn’t see too much action - fired at some German patrols in May 1940, before surrendering shortly after with the fall of France in June. We didn’t take the tour below ground, but we may go back later in the week.

Next, a brief stop through another picturesque little town and back home for a couple of local beers in the garden while the better half prepared a tasty dinner.

Beautiful and Tasty Alsace

I don’t know why I haven’t head more people bragging that they were going to Alsace on vacation?  A side of me is glad!  This area is dramatic with mountains;  valleys; deep, dark woods; medieval castles;   reflecting the shifting ownership of the land between Germany and France; and chilling reminders of wars.

Yesterday we visited the medieval castle, Fleckenstein château.  It is on a hiking route through the Northern Vosges forest, just a very few miles from our place.  As we were driving our excellent car into the entry, we saw a sign that said “Allemagne 1500 meters.”  Emma and I were thrilled.  I was plotting a trip to Germany after the castle visit. 

The parking lot was filled with cars from Germany and that explained why German was the prominent language we heard.  Only the gentleman at the ticket booth greeted us in French.  As we were heading back to the car, we had a surreal experience.  An older couple stopped us an asked how far it was to the château The older woman asked us in French.  Steve answered that it was about 500 meters.  There was confusion, so he asked if they spoke English.  No English.  Steve then asked if they spoke German.  The man said, “Yes”.  So Steve told him in German that is was about a 15 minute walk.  The man reacted, then told the woman in French. She reacted.  The man misunderstood and told the woman that it was 5 kilometers.  Steve clarified, the man said he understood in German, then translated into French.  All was well. 

We walked a trail to castle and began exploring.  It was a strange mix of natural and commercial. The castle itself  was a great stone structure that was a partial ruin set VERY high up overlooking the Vosges.  It was interesting and quite dramatic with stunning views for miles and miles.  It was a sunny, clear day perfect for enjoying the sight.  But, to make a few more euros, they created this mystery quest you could pay extra to participate in.  We chose not to participate.  There was some scenario about a wedding of a princess happening soon.  There were strange stand up cutouts of characters in some rooms posing questions or giving clues to the quest.  They were jarring in their clipart nature and comic sans fonts (“No Comic Sans!” says Emma), that made no sense to the visitors that weren’t doing the quest.  All in all it was a good visit.

After our polyglotal-direction-giving, we headed for Germany - only 1500 meters away.  There was nothing to indicate a border crossing except a small sign and a listing of the speed limits in Germany.  The villages we went through did look different and beautiful.  We found a small town with a tiny town square that included a fountain and several benches.  We had packed a lunch, so we sat in the sun and enjoyed the little village.  There was a very steep wooded hill to the east and for the first time I understood the fairy tales when they talk about the dark, deep forest.  Steve took a picture for me that we will post later.

Back home for a relax.  We had plans to go to dinner with Marina and Eric, our hosts.  They wanted to take us to a restaurant that specialized in the local delicacy - Tarte Flambée.  It is like a brick oven pizza, but it is made with a thin crust, crème fraiche, carmelized onions, ham and a choice of gruyere or munster cheese.  Very tasty!  A wonderful evening!

Once home, the sun was almost down (11:30) so we walked up above town on a road Steve found and Emma and I explored earlier in the day, to stargaze.  Not quite dark enough, so we went home to bed.