History

On Wednesday we saw one of the most impressive historic sites I have seen. We went to see a memorial and graves for the first world war. If I understood correctly, approximately 12,000 French soldiers lost their lives defending the line in the Vosges Mountains.  After the memorial, we went on a substantial hike up the mountain to see the trenches on both the French and German sides.  It was hard to imagine the conditions they must have experienced during the war and just how strange the battle was.  The views from the mountains were amazing.

 (The field behind the kids, down the mountain, is the site of the crosses and the main memorial.)

The kids wore out before most of the adults, so the two families went to see the Eco Museé, a large outdoor cultural museum where they have brought many old buildings from around the area.  It is a bit like the Western Development museum, but much bigger and outside.

We didn’t last terribly long because it was very hot and we had already hiked a long way. All of the activities and commentary was in French so we had a hard time following it.  Thoroughly exhausted, we came home and made Mac and cheese for dinner, and relaxed outside with a bottle of Crémant (Alsatian sparkling wine).

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Strasbourg

Before we headed off to Strasbourg for the day, we stopped to watch people at the Jean Wach winery doing some bottling. The family is friends with Jean, and Tessa and Andrew rented an apartment from them. They said that they would do 1600 bottles in an hour.  I think they were only spending one or two days bottling. 

In Strasbourg we took a boat tour, which was really fun even in the heat. They had headphones for the audio guide which came in many different languages, even including a kids version in English (narrated by a pirate?).  We went through two locks, and saw many different buildings and bridges. The highlight was seeing the modern European Union Parliament buildings.

Jean and George took the kids out for lunch while the remaining 6 adults went to Le Crocodile, a Michelin one-star restaurant.  It was a fine lunch, inciluding some wonderful foie gras and a dessert served in a caviar tin where the “caviar” was balls of green and black tea gelatin served on top of a crème brûlée type dessert.  It was truly excellent.  After lunch we toured the cathedral. I still can’t quite imagine how it was possible in those days to build so many beautiful and enormous churches, castles, and othe grand buildings.

We tried to find Petit France, and only discovered a few buildings.  We were hoping to find some shops for souvenirs.  The kids were finally too tired to move another step, so we quickly found a restaurant with tall beers and limonade with ice!  Somewhat refreshed we made it to the car and back to Andlau.  Dinner was leftovers and some premade quiche, and a few bottles of Alsatian wine.  I’m really going to miss starting evenings off with a glass of Crémant.

Towns and Castles

First, here is a daytime picture of the view from our bedroom window.

Our first two stops today, were more touristy towns: Riquewihr and Ribeauvilleé.  Riquewihr was a medieval walled town, and the gates definitively look medieval.  It had a huge Chirstmas store, with the traditional German decorations I remember from my childhood.  We stopped in Ribeauvilleé for lunch and had escargots and tarte a l’ongion.  A stork perched on the roof above and watched us for a while.

Our next stop was Haut Koenigsbourg, a castle first built in the 12th century, rebuilt in the late 15th century, and was looted and burned during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Kaiser Wilhelm II oversaw the restoration of the castle from 1900-1908 and acquired the medieval furnishings and weapons that are there today.  I was particularly impressed by the ceramic stoves in every room.

The final stop of the day was at Monkey Mountain, a preserve for Barbary Macaques.  The big draw is that you are in the enclosure with the macaques and can feed them popcorn.

Dinner was leftovers at Andrew and Tessa’s place.  We sat outside because we are finally getting some lovely summer weather.

Automobiles, Trains, and Roman Ruins

An hour drive south brought us to Mulhouse where our first stop was the Car museum.  This museum was focussed on the history of the French car, and went on forever. I learned about Bugatti and the cars he made.

Here is the one Ellen thought would be fun to have as a kid:

Laura thought the sports car would be more her style:

The kids had a huge amount of fun pushing around the coin operated cars, that their parents wouldn’t give them any money for.

After the car museum, we went to the train museum.  It was very dark, so we don’t have any pictures.  We also kind of rushed through it, which was too bad because it was almost as impressive as the car museum, and included interesting tidbits of French history.  We had lunch at the cafe which started out promising when they brought us our wine in Alsacian glasses but went downhill quickly.  They seemed to bring food out quite randomly and it wasn’t very good food.  In the end, my meal took over an hour to arrive, at which point everyone else had gone off to look at more of the museum.

We were in a bit of a hurry to leave the museum because we wanted to get to Basel to see Augusta Raurica, Roman ruins from 250AD.  It was also fun to be able to say we spent a few hours in Switzerland. The ruins and the museum were impressive! The four kids put on some kind of presentation on the stage of the partially restored amphitheatre (which could seat more than 10,000), and played hide and ek among the ruins for a while.

The museum had the largest collection of silver from Roman times that was found on the site.  It also had a representative Roman house where the kids could put on togas and imangine what it would be like.  We were very glad to have made the extra effort to get there.  

We capped the evening off with a lovely meal at a restaurant in town.  The adults enjoyed some superb foie gras and escargots.

Tour de France

On July 13th, a stag of the Tour was passing quite close to where were are staying, and a few of us we’re quite interested to see it.  Our wonderful host Jean and her also truly wonderful friend Jan took the kids for the whole day while the rest of us drove to Turkheim to catch the Tour.  We arrived in Turkheim just in time to find spots in the main parking lot right by the town. 

Turkheim is a picturesque, old Alsacian town, so we wandered up and down the main street taking photos. 

A little before noon we found a spot by the road and had a picnic of baguettes, cheese and sausage (and wine).  It kept threatening to rain, but never did.  A few people went off in search of another bottle of wine. Just after 1 pm, the “caravan” came through.  This was a a bunch of cars and other vehicles representing the Tour’s sponsors, and they were throwing a variety of promotional things into the crowds, so we came home with a bag of stuff (including the bag).  Irving bought a “kit” that included the t-shirt that he wanted, and a bandana that I wore (and will wear for workouts or running), a cap, and a bunch of other stuff in a kit bag that has already come in handy. 

The riders raced through a little ahead of schedule before 3pm.  There were 2 leaders, followed by a decent chase pack, and then the peleton with all the jerseys in it.  There was a small group of stragglers, but everyone was through in less than 15 minutes.  We were stationed just before a sharp turn, so the riders had to slow down a bit. (Astana leading the peleton with the yellow jersey.)

We stopped at a couple of wineries on the way home and met everyone back in Andlau.   (Those are storks in the neston top butmorep about storks in a later post.)

The kids had a wonderful day, buying postcards, hiking up the hill to the gazebo for lunch, a scavenger hunt, a visit to the town museum, and playing in the park.

 

Because it was the final game of the World Cup,  there was a big party at the Sporthall, where we ate Tarte Flambee (a very thin pizza), and drank Cremant (Champange style wine).  I took the kids home, and Irving stayed to watch the game with a group of people there.

On to Alsace

We got up at 5:30 Saturday morning to catch our flight. We weren’t sorry to leave our tiny apartment behind, but I think we felt that we could spend more time in in Paris.  We thought we had a driver coming to pick us up arranged by our hosts but due to some miscommunication, he didn’t show up, and we ended up catching a taxi.  We got to the airport with plenty of time, and it was only a one hour flight to Strassbourg.  It took a little while to get our car, and we made a bit of a mistake getting to Andlau, but we met up with our friends at a restaurant for lunch in Bar.  It was great to see everyone!  They had walked from Andlau and had been caught in a terrible downpour, but somehow were still in good spirits.  Irving and I shared a Croustilliant Munster and a Baekoffe stew.  (I may have to fix the spelling later.) what a treat to be eating Alasacian fare.

We were taken back to Andlau by our wonderful host Jean, and shown our beautiful apartment. After paris, this apartment seems incredibly spacious and airy.  We are in an old flour mill that has been converted to condos,  so a small river runs right beside the building.  There are two bedrooms and the girls each have their own bed.  Our room had a lovely view of the Abbey church.

Everyone else had done some shopping so we had dinner at Andrew and Tessa’s place.  It was very nice to be taken care of, and to be drinking wine with friends.  Ellen and Laura were very happy to be playing with Aidan and Liam.

We haven’t taken pictures of Andlau yet, but it is a most picturesque medieval town. It feels like a great place to relax after a busy time in Paris.

Another museum day

Wednesday we went farther afield, taking the metro to Porte de la Villette to the Cite des Sciences et de L’Industrie.  There was a very interesting exhibit on art robots, and the rest of the museum was very much like the science centres we have been to, and the exhibits were very well done.  It was hard to read all of the French descriptions for Laura, so I eventually gave up. 

Porte de la Villette looked like a big park where a summer exhibition is held.  Part of the reason for heading up here was to see the Musee de la Musique, on elf the “finest collections of instruments from the 17th century to modern day. We were all pretty enthralled and stayed until they closed the museum at 6pm.  The free audio guides were excellent.

Restaurants in Paris don’t open for dinner until 7 pm, so we took the metro back to our area.  The metro we extremely busy (rush hour), and Laura didn’t have much fun.  Since we were all pretty exhausted we went to the Hamburgery that we had spotted earlier, and had very good burgers.  We topped the evening off with pastries from Kayser (macaron, chocolate eclair, raspberry pistachio tart, and pecan chocolate square).