35 before 35: Champagne in Champagne

Champagne

WordPress congratulated me on my anniversary this morning… apparently this blog has existed for a whole nine years today! So even though I didn’t intend to blog, I didn’t feel like I could let such a momentous occasion pass without a post. And what better way to celebrate than with champagne (albeit champagne that has already been drunk).

Whit Monday is a public holiday in Germany and Switzerland (or at least the parts that are relevant to us), which meant a long weekend. We didn’t want to let it go to waste, so with the Champagne region a mere four and a half hours’ drive from here, I decided it was time to check something else off my 35 before 35 list.

We were staying in Reims, but after arriving there on Saturday evening we decided to spend some time exploring other place and save Reims itself for the next day. First of all, we drove to a village called Avizes, where there’s a champagne company that one of Jan’s colleagues recommended (the one in the photo at the top of this post). Unfortunately they had already closed for the weekend so we couldn’t book a tour. We stopped in a little park just outside the village where even the landscaping featured champagne!

The next stop was Epernay… home of the (apparently) world-famous “Champagne street”. All the big names have headquarters there.

As you can see, it had started to rain by this point, so we were glad to head off and find some food (and actual champagne to drink!). We each chose the evening three course meal. Jan was driving, so he drank some delicious apricot juice, but I chose the version of the meal that came with three types of champagne. Sadly I don’t remember what they were, except that the first one did come from where it says on the glass. How’s that for a wine list though!

After breakfast the next day, we headed into Reims for a look around. I’m going to tell you about that in a separate post though, since there was no champagne drinking involved and this post is for the 35 before 35 item ­čśë Instead let’s skip ahead to that afternoon, when we had a G. H. Mumm cellar tour booked.

We saw some of the barrels they originally used, each with the name of the village the grapes came from, learned about the villages where Mumm grow their grapes, saw all the different sizes of champagne bottle that exist (Mumm only has about 4 of them available!) and visited the museum.

Obviously the tour ended with a glass of champagne!

And that’s item 34 crossed off my list: Drink Champagne in Champagne.

 

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Huningue and the Rheinuferweg

One grey day at the end of May, Jan and I were bored. I suggested that we could take a tram to the border and walk across the Three Countries Bridge to see what’s in Huningue. The answer is not much! But it’s a cute little town.I actually ended up going there again with my mum and brother so they could say they’d been in three countries in one day (and also get a glass of wine for cheaper than in Switzerland…)

There’s a white water rafting/kayaking place in Huningue and there turned out to be a competition going on that day with participants from all over France, so that’s what those photos are all about.

We ended up walking back to Basel along the Rheinuferweg – Rhine waterfront path – which connects St. Johanns Park in Basel with Huningue in France. At the moment the part on the French side is only open on weekends while they finish renovating the area that used to be a sewage treatment plant, but as of 2017 it’s supposed to be open during the week as well. Part of the path is the Dreyland Dichterweg, or Three Countires Poet Path, which involves various boards containing poems by poets from the region – in French, German and Swiss German. The total length of the path is only 550m and part of it goes alongside the industrial area, but it’s still quite nice to walk along by the river. I hardly took any photos, but here are the ones I did take:

The first bridge you see up there is the Dreirosenbr├╝cke, literally Three Roses Bridge, but don’t be fooled by the pretty name… there’s nothing pretty about that area! The white bridge on photo two is the Three Countries Bridge with Huningue (France) on the left and Weil am Rhein (Germany) on the right. The final photo is the evidence that we actually walked across the border ­čśë

If you’re in Basel and want to walk along the path there are two options take a tram (8) or bus (36) to Kleinh├╝ningeranlage and, from there, walk across the bridge into Weil am Rhein (or take the 8 all the way into Weil am Rhein if you prefer), cross the Dreil├Ąnderbr├╝cke into Hunigue and turn left to walk along the Rhine. Keep walking until you reach Basel. Alternatively, take a tram┬á(8, 11) to Johanniterbr├╝cke and start walking along the river towards the Dreirosenbr├╝cke. Go under that bridge and just carry on walking until you reach the Dreil├Ąnderbr├╝cke. From there, you can cross the bridge back to Germany and take a tram back to Basel. Not a bad little afternoon out!

Colmar Christmas market(s)

This has been a weekend of Christmas markets! Although, actually, it was far too warm to be standing around drinking mulled wine. No wonder I’m not ready for Christmas… the weather’s telling me it’s still no later than September!

Our first Christmas market of the weekend was Colmar, which is only about 45-50 minutes away from Basel by train. Perfect for a day trip. There are, in fact, five markets in Colmar! Although one of those is just the normal indoor market with a few Christmassy stalls in addition to the normal ones that are there anyway, so it doesn’t really count as a Christmas market for me. One disappointing thing was a distinct lack of interesting food items – it took us ages to find anything we were even vaguely interested in. But Colmar is a beautiful town, and it looks even more magical all dressed up in its Christmas decorations. We were mostly there during the day, so I hardly got any photos with the lights switched on, but there are a few near the end. This will mainly be a post of images since there isn’t much to say beyond “We looked at stalls, drank mulled and managed to buy a few Christmas presents”. Also, the drinks came in horrible plastic glasses so I didn’t even get my usual souvenir cup!

The first thing we saw on arriving in Colmar was this, outside the train station:

Yay, signs of Christmas already! Also, note the blue sky… most of the afternoon was slightly cloudy, but it was more like late September than the last weekend in November!

On our walk into town, we found a children’s roller coaster and, beside it, this:

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It’s a “carousel bar” and it was actually rotating! There are no words.

Finally, we reached the first part of the actual Christmas market and grabbed our first mulled wine, or “hot wine” as the French say.

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Wine in hand, we wandered on through the streets in search of the other markets, admiring the pretty buildings decked out in all their finery along the way.

Various bits of the market also had random animals. They were in all different parts of town and didn’t seem to be meant for petting, so I’m not sure what the point was…

Some more photos of the town and markets. I love all the brightly coloured buildings!

We finally decided on something to eat… some kind of bread thing with cheese on top and… Escargot! Yes, we decided to be brave and try eating snails! After all, nothing could be worse than the oyster omelet in Taiwan…

It turned out the snails didn’t taste of anything much… they were a bit rubbery and that was it. We also ordered a second, “normal” slice of bread in “Alsace” style, with onions, bacon bits and Munster cheese. That one basically tasted like burnt cheese on toast. Oh well, at least they weren’t expensive. I can’t say I particularly “liked” snails, but at least they didn’t make me gag and almost throw up (looking at you, oyster slime!).

Finally, it started getting dark and I could see all the pretty lights!

I wasn’t sure what time the last train home was, but I knew when we were in Mulhouse the last one left at 9ish, and Colmar is before that, so we decided to take a train home at 7 p.m. to be safe. The markets close at 8 anyway so we couldn’t really have stayed much longer…

So, in conclusion, the Colmar Christmas markets are worth a visit and there are some lovely home-made items in the special crafts bit, bit I would recommend popping into a restaurant to eat (or bringing your own food!). The town itself is fairytale like at any time of year, and even more so when it’s all sparkly and Christmassy.

The Christmas markets in Colmar are on until 31st December 2015. During the week, they close at 7 p.m. and on weekends (Fri/Sat/Sun) at 8 p.m.

I’m linking this up to Monday Escapes with Packing My Suitcase and My Travel Monkey. Click the button for more travel tales to brighten up your Monday.

Packing my Suitcase

Paris on my mind

Inspired by this post the lovely Katyboo, today I wanted to write something positive about Paris to counteract the awful images we’ve been seeing all weekend. A sort of projecting of light into the darkness, if you will. Luckily, it turns out that, although I blogged about where we ate, the Welcome to Night Vale live show we saw and an amazing bar, I never actually got round to sharing the other photos from our stay.

Much like this autumn has been, the end of October/beginning of November was unseasonably warm in 2014, and we were able to enjoy lunch outside and a stroll around some of the sights of Paris. We didn’t have much time, but that didn’t matter. It was a lovely two days spent with my boyfriend and a good friend. Paris will never be my favourite place (sorry, but no big city will ever take that honour – I’m more of a small, quaint places kind of girl), but I have good memories from the times I’ve been there. And that’s something no terrorist will ever be able to take away from me.

Here are a few photos from last year’s Paris trip:

My thoughts are with the people of Paris, and also of all those other countries that are experiencing acts of terrorism and war every single day, but rarely receive as much news coverage as Friday’s attacks did.

I’m linking up with Monday Escapes again this week. I think we could all use an escape from sadness and hate right now.

Packing my Suitcase

A walk to Mariastein Abbey and Landskron castle ruins

It’s time for another entry in my series of “persuade everyone that Switzerland is worth visiting” posts ­čśë

Before I came to Switzerland, I joined a meetup group for Basel. We’ve been to a couple of the meet ups, but have yet to really “click” with anyone in a manner that would lead to further meetings outside of the group. However, last time we were there, one of the other members suggested Mariastein Abbey as a good place for an afternoon out. When we decided to get out of the flat for a bit yesterday evening, we remembered this advice and decided to check out, so we hopped on a number 10 tram and headed off to Fl├╝h from where we walked the roughly half an hour to Mariastein (there’s also a bus if you don’t feel like the exercise). First, some photos from the walk up. Jan told me not to take the one of the garden full of gnomes, but how could I not?

Apparently, the Mariastein Abbey is the second most important pilgrimage site in Switzerland. People come from far and wide to worship there. Obviously we couldn’t go into the actual abbey since it’s full of monks, but the basilica is open to the public and the inside is gorgeous! There were so many little details that I just couldn’t stop taking photos! Apologies in advance for picture overload…

We decided to take a different route down, which took us into France. When we realised that the ruins of Landeskron castle – which we had seen a sign for on the way up – wouldn’t take us much out of our way, we decided to go there. The castle stands on the border between France and Switzerland and is owned by both countries. From the top, you can see Germany, France and Switzerland but don’t ask me which is where! The only thing I can reliably recognise is Basel (thanks to the Roche tower). The light was really too bright at the castle, so it was pretty much a case of keep changing settings, pointing, clicking and hoping for the best. I’m afraid I did rather a lot of clicking. What can I say… I love castle ruins! Again, I apologise for the number of photos. And believe me, this isn’t even all of them. I reluctantly narrowed them down for this post ­čśë

On the way back down from the top of the castle, I spotted some bees enjoying the flowers. Obviously I had to photograph them too!

We then walked back down to Fl├╝h via the woods, took a tram home and enjoyed a well deserved dinner!

There’s not a huge amount to do at either Mariastein or Landskron, but it was perfect for our requirements – a chance to stretch our legs and something interesting to look at along the way. The walk was fairly easy and I’d say most people could probably do it. There are a few restaurants next to the abbey where you could stop for something to eat or drink, or you could stop for refreshments in Fl├╝h – it only took us about 15 minutes to get back down from Landskron.

And once again, I can’t believe such beauty is pretty much on my doorstep (although Fl├╝h is in canton Solothurn, so slightly less on my doorstep than other places).

I’m linking this post up to Monday Escapes with My Travel Monkey and Packing My Suitcase. To see where everyone else’s travels are taken them this week and add your link, click the button below.

My Travel Monkey

Border crossings

Flags

Three weeks on, I am still waiting to find out whether I’m actually going to be allowed to be allowed to stay in Switzerland. In the meantime, we’re acting like we assume we will, taking trips and joining in with local customs. Last weekend, we thought we would take a tram to Weil am Rhein in Germany to see what’s there. The original plan was to take the tram to the train station and go from there, but when we reached a stop called Dreil├Ąnderbr├╝cke (Three Countries Bridge), it seemed like a good place to get off. Technically the name of the bridge is misleading… one end is in Germany and the other is in France (although Switzerland is about a 2 minute walk – if that – from the German side). This is the German side of the bridge:

Over on the French side (Hunigue for those who are interested, or H├╝ningen in German), the first thing we spotted was this:

On the French side
A ship

We then walked down to the river where there were a few ducks and loads of swans! Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many swans in one place.

In the background of the picture with the many swans, you can see Switzerland. And behind the bridge is Germany. Here’s some more Germany:

We also spied an interesting looking pigeon. And a crow.

Once we’d finished admiring the wildlife, we crossed back over the bridge into Germany. There’s a shopping centre right on the border and inside it is a Marktkauf so we popped in to buy a few relatively cheap bits, including toppings for the homemade pizza we planned to have for tea the next night – relatively cheap because, although it’s cheaper than Switzerland, Marktkauf is one of the more expensive German supermarkets.

It only cost me just over 10 Swiss francs for a 24 hour ticket that included all of Basel plus the area just over the border so it most definitely won’t be the last time I pop over the Germany for an afternoon (provided I actually get my residence permit at some point…)

Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde, Paris

One of the girls we met at the Night Vale event told us about this bar, and as soon as she did we knew we had to go! Those of you who understand French may have already realised why. For those who don’t, Le dernier Bar avant la Fin du Monde means “the last bar at the end of the world” and it’s exactly what it sounds like! Inside the bar, you can find various items relating to popular geek culture. For instance, on entering we were directed to go to the “second basement” because the upper floors were full. Arriving in the second basement, the first thing we saw was this:

Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde

There was also a door made to look like the entrance to the TARDIS (I didn’t take a photo of that) – and the inside was indeed bigger than the outside made it look ­čśë
Here are some more random photos, some by me and some by Jan:

The bar is a cocktail bar, and also has a few interesting shots. There were four of us (me, Jan, K and the girl from Night Vale), so we decided to go for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles round of shots. I chose red which – as I’m sure you all know – is Raphael. Not because he’s my favourite turtle, but because that’s my favourite colour. And yes, they serve a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster cocktail. I didn’t try it because it’s a gin cocktail and I’m not into gin, but they also had one called 42 which contains violet and tastes like an alcoholic version of Parma Violets, except much, much nicer. (UK readers will know what I’m talking about).

The cocktails are fairly expensive, but no more so than other places in Paris, and personally I liked every one I had (I wasn’t too keen on one of Jan’s, but I knew I wouldn’t be just from the ingredients!). We were advised to eat beforehand because the food apparently isn’t all that great, although it is amusingly named. For example there was a lemon tart called Pac-Man (I wonder whether it was also shaped accordingly?) and an assortment of tapas going by the name Inigo Montoya. Just reading through the menu and seeing what we recognised was a lot of fun! According to Jan, there is also a video game in the urinal, but obviously I wouldn’t know anything about that…

If you ever find yourself in Paris and you’re into video games, anime, science fiction or basically anything that be considered in some way geeky, I recommend visiting this bar… and be sure to check out every room. There’s a lot to see! I didn’t recognise every reference, but that really doesn’t matter ­čÖé

Le Dernier Bar Avant La Fin du Monde is located at 19 avenue Victoria. The nearest Metro station is Châtelet.