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 Dreiländerbrücke (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 Hüningen 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…)

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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 😉
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 🙂

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

Les Negociants, Paris

The day after the Night Vale live show, we were fairly slow getting up and ready, so we ended up skipping breakfast and going straight for lunch. We decided to head to a place that Jan and I had been to before – Jan twice and me once. We arrived at around 12 o’clock when the place was still pretty much deserted, and were able to grab a table outside. Despite it being November by that point, it was still as warm as summer! By the time we’d finished eating and left, the tables had all filled up and the place looked like this:

Paris

The first time Jan went to this restaurant was with a local when he was in Paris for some meeting or conference or something. He liked it so much that, the next time the two of us were in Paris, he wanted to introduce me to the place. And because I enjoyed it too, this time we decided to take K along.

For our main courses, K and I chose lamb. It was melt-in-the-mouth tender and came on a bed of mashed sweet potato. Mmmm! Jan had the pork, which was marinated in cider and served with chunks of stewed apple and a little pot of mashed potatoes. I trued his pork and the marinade was delicious!

Next up, the reason we had wanted to come to this place again… the desserts are to die for! Jan and I each decided on the Pain Perdu (sorry if that’s spelled wrong) – a French version of eggy bread/French toast. I’m told it means “lost bread”. The bread was soaked in a salted caramel sauce and came served with a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. Salted caramel is one of my favourite things in the whole world, and I savoured every last bite. K choose the apple tart, as the only item on the menu that was lactose free. I tried a tiny bite and that too was delicious.

I finished my meal with a cappucino – it had got rather late the night before, after all!

If you ever find yourself in Paris, check out Les Negociants and be sure to eat dessert. I promise you won’t regret it! To get there, take the metro to Les Gobelins. You will find the restaurant on the corner of Blvd St Marcel and Ave des Gobelins.

Take 12 Trips: A Roundup

A little over a year ago, I decided to join in with a challenge inviting bloggers to take one trip every month for 12 months. If you’ve been paying close attention to my blog for the past year, you may have noticed that my trip to Weinheim in September was, in fact, my 12th trip! (Don’t worry, I don’t expect anyone to actually have noticed 😉 ). This fact seemed to call for some kind of roundup/recap of my 12 months of trip taking, just to bring things to a nice neat conclusion… or something like that.

October 2013

Triberg waterfallI started the challenge with a day trip to Triberg im Schwarzwald in October 2013. I had actually taken this trip shortly before learning about Take 12 Trips and decided to make it my first one rather than waiting until the following month to get started. In Clare’s original post inviting people to join the challenge, she told us to “Do anything – trip big, or trip tiny”. The point was to go somewhere new, perhaps even somewhere local that you’d been meaning to try out but never had. So a visit to somewhere in the Black Forest, which is basically on my doorstep, seemed like a fitting first trip.

November 2013

November 2013 saw me returning to Feldkirch in Austria for the first time since I lived there in 2005/2006. It was nice to see the place again, and also lovely to pay a visit to some friends from when I lived there and meet their baby son! After Feldkirch, we spent a night in Garmisch-Patenkirchen (famous for skiing!), then on the way back we stopped at Schloss Neuschwanstein (the famous fairy-tale castle in Bavaria) and in Augsburg. Not bad for a single long weekend!

December 2013

Fire show 1I live in Germany, so obviously my December trip had to be to a Christmas market! I chose a local one, the Mediaeval Christmas market in Durlach, which is a district of Karlsruhe. The market includes a fire show (pictured above) and, aside from the usual Glühwein (mulled wine), hot mead is also on offer. At the end of the month, I went home to England for Christmas, but I don’t count that as a real trip 😉

January 2014

Part of my January 2014 trip was actually in December – Jan and I went to Madeira for New Year! I absolutely loved this trip and would go back in a heartbeat – Madeira is beautiful! And it was nice to actually spend New Year somewhere warm for a change.

February 2014

A figure on the gate post
A figure on the gate post

As the end of February approached with no trip planned (and me not wanting my February “trip” to be the week I spent in England by my dying grandpa’s bedside), I spontaneously decided to take a train to Bruchsal. I had been to the castle before, but never into the town and it was about time that was remedied! Sadly, it turned out that Bruchsal as a town isn’t all that interesting. I found a few pretty buildings, but after only 45 minutes I found myself at the castle with nowhere else to go. I also discovered that day that I find day trips by myself pretty boring (although who knows, maybe I would have fared better in a more interesting town?). Oh well, onwards and upwards as they say!

March 2014

Gutenbergplatz

In March 2014, I finally did something I’ve been meaning to for about 4 years – visited the Saturday market on Gutenbergplatz in Karlsruhe. Thanks Take 12 Trips for the inspiration! I also went to Colmar, France in March, although I didn’t write a post about it til April.

April 2014

Amneville zooApril saw Jan, K and I on a day trip to Amnéville Zoo in France. It was the second visit for Jan and I, and it was just as amazing as the first time. The falconry display especially is well worth the three hour drive!

Also in April (although not counted towards the challenge), I went to my first ever bloggers’ meetup when I joined some fellow Germany-based bloggers in Heidelberg.

May 2014

Playmobil paintingIn May, I managed to persuade Jan to come with me to the Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Speyer to see an exhibition celebrating 40 years of Playmobil. What can I say… at heart, I’m a 5 year old 😉 The exhibition was overrun with kids, of course, but I enjoyed it anyway. And the rest of the museum was interesting too!

Roughly a week later I was in England for a funeral (not the best trip!) then at the end of the month Jan and I had a mini-break in Konstanz, since it was a long weekend.

June 2014

For our ten-year anniversary(!) I had bought Jan tickets to see Pear Jam in Vienna, so that’s where our June trip took us. Apart from the concert, we visited the National Library, my favourite part being the Globe Museum, I ate Marillenknödel, crossing off another item on my 35 before 35 list, and we visited the UN headquarters then went to the Donauinselfest, a huge free music festival! We also took a day trip to Bratislava in Slovakia. My favourite thing there was the blue church, pictured above.

July 2014

Basel RhineIn July, my brother came to stay with us for a week. The trip I officially counted for the challenge was to Basel, but we also visited Strasbourg, the Black Forest and Frankfurt. Phew! I was exhausted by the time he went home!

August 2014

TaiwanI’m sure by now all of you know where I went for my August trip – I’ve bored you with enough posts on it 😉 Yes, it was Taiwan! My first visit to Asia was amazing! We saw so many fantastic sights, ate some great food (and also some truly awful stuff *cough* oyster omelette *cough*). Taiwan is a fascinating and beautiful country and I would recommend anyone to go.

September 2014

WeinheimIt would have been nice to finish the challenge with Taiwan, but alas I still had one more trip to go! Finishing the challenge with another day trip within the local area provided some nice symmetry though. This time we headed in the other direction to Weinheim, which is in the Odenwald rather than the Black Forest. It was a beautiful autumn day and the perfect way to finish my 12 trips!

Earlier in September, I also spent the day in Bad Dürkheim at the Wurstmarkt, the world’s biggest wine festival, making it another multi-trip month.

Altogether, that makes 12 (plus) trips, seven countries (count them!) and a million memories! Thank you Clare for coming up with this challenge!

So, what now?

Just because my 12 trips are over doesn’t mean I’m going to stop travelling any time soon! In October 2014, I was in Bad Bergzabern (post to follow) and then spent Halloween Paris for a Night Vale live show, and I’m hoping that this month and next month will involve one or two Christmas markets. Then there’s the annual New Year’s trip that Jan and I always take (no destination confirmed yet). As for next year, so far only a trip to England in October for the Rugby World Cup is planned, but I’m sure there will be other opportunities to travel before then. There probably won’t be any big trips until the end of the year, but a few day trips will definitely be on the cards! Stay tuned…

Strasbourg and La Petite Pierre

Day 1 of my brother’s visit was spent in Karlsruhe, eating crepes and having a wander around. He had been before (about seven years ago!) so it was interesting to see what he remembered. Of course, some of the things he might have found familiar are now no longer visible due to ongoing construction for the tram tunnel!

After checking the weather for various places, we decided to make our first trip of the week Strasbourg simply because it wasn’t supposed to rain there! Strasbourg is about an hour’s drive from Karlsruhe (or between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours by train, depending on whether you take the express of regional transport). I didn’t actually take as many photos in Strasbourg as I normally would on day trips because I’ve been several times before (there’s only so many times you can photograph the same building!), but here are a few:

After walking around for a while and taking in the “main” sights (cathedral, canal), we decided to stop for lunch in the Petite-France area. It’s pretty touristy down there, but whatever. We were tourists, right? 😉 I decided to go traditionally Alsatian and have Tarte flambée (actually not 100% traditional, because while I did go with the baon and onion topping, I chose one that also included cheese… because cheese! No further explanation necessary).

Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German
Tarte flambée, or Flammkuchen in German

Once we’d eaten, I wandered down the water’s edge and attempted to take a photo of a mother duck and her ducklings. I swear I’ve seen ducklings in Strasbourg every single time I’ve visited! No matter what the time of year, there are ducklings! (The one exception is the time I went for the Christmas market, but we were nowhere near the water then.)

Strasbourg

From Petite-France, we wandered down to the Barrage Vauban… the Vauban weir. Inside the weir there are sculptures and, when we were there, also an exhibition showing the various suburbs of Strasbourg as they used to be and as they are now they’ve been incorporated into Strasbourg (most were originally little villages). Vauban, who built the wier, was actually a military engineer and built numerous fortifications, all in a very specific style. On top of the weir, there is a panoramic terrace with a lovely view of the various bridges.

After walking around for a little longer, we decided to head back to the car. Instead of heading straight home, we used the sat nav to look for places of interest in the general vicinity and came up with La Petite Pierre, where there was supposedly a castle. It meant a bit of a detour, but still wasn’t too far from home, so we added it as an intermediate destination. Also, Jan told me the name of the village means “little rock”, which amused me because that means anyone whose name is Pierre is actually named rock! (Yes, the mame Peter actually means stone or rock as well, but that’s not the same as having the actual name Rock). By the time we arrived, the evening sky was the perfect colour for taking photos! Here’s the castle and the little church beside it:

In the grounds of the castle there was the following sculpture, carved entirely from a single tree branch. I thought it was cool!

There was some kind of exhibition in the castle, but none of us was really interested in seeing it, so instead we wandered over to a little garden/picnic area opposite. There, we found large stone coats of arms from the neighbouring villages. I’m pretty sure the hat on the first one once belonged to the Sorceror’s Apprentice 😉 Sorry, but I don’t actually remember which villages/regions the coats of arms were for. Any French people out there want to help?

On the way in to La Petite Pierre we had driven past a tearoom, so we decided to have a walk back down the hill and head there for a drink. On the way back through the village, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of a tiny door with carvings of girls carrying pretzels on it. It looked to me like it should be in a fairytale!

La Petite Pierre

The tearoom turned out to be fascinating… crammed full of all sorts of odds and ends, from various different teapots (okay, not that bizarre) to shoes randomly hanging on the wall. Sorry my second photo is a bit blurry, but I’m sure you get the idea!

After a quick look at the menu, I decided a hot chocolate with cream was the way forward.. and once it arrived the cup and saucer just begged for me to take a photo! We also all decided to have a piece of cake – lemon meringue pie for my brother and I and something with bergamot for Jan (I tried his – the bergamot doesn’t taste quite as perfumy in cake as in Earl Grey tea but it’s still not my favourite thing in the world!). My meringue was slightly chewy, but not too bad.

Once we’d finished eating and drinking, it was time to return to the car for the drive back to Karlsruhe. Day trip one done! next up is Basel, which I’m counting as my July trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge. Stay tuned!

Amnéville Zoo, take 2

My first trip to Amnéville Zoo was in May 2011 (you can read about that here) and I’ve been meaning to go again ever since… four hours just wasn’t long enough to take it all in! So we decided to take the opportunity that the four-day Easter weekend provided and go there again, this time for an entire day. We had also wanted to take our frind, K, along with us knowing she would love the falconry display as much as I did, so having checked that she had time, the date was set. With a two-and-a-half hour drive to get there, we needed to be on the road early, but the day was well worth the 6:30 a.m. wake up call (and the 32 euro entrance fee)! Apart from the falconry show, there weren’t any specific exhibitions we wanted to see, so we chose to just wander and see which animals we came across. Here are some photos from the morning and early afternoon, which included the petting zoo and reptiles, among other things. How adorable is the baby orangutan?

Once again, the falconry display alone would have been worth the drive. I’m not sure what the angel of death/birdman/giant crow thing was supposed to represent (that part didn’t happen last time and the talking was all in French!), but the actual birds were impressive. I don’t need to understand the explanations to appreciate a good flying display!

Birds of prey done, it was time for gorillas, various cat-shaped animals, red pandas (there’s were bigger than the ones in Karlsruhe) an ice cream stop and finally the African plain, home of elephants and zebras and white rhinos (most of which I have no pictures of because my camera battery died…).

Once we’d seen everything, we stopped at a Buffalo Grill on the other side of the carpark for dinner. I had a country burger, which was basically a cheese burger with giant round hash browns instead of a bread bun – delicious! I would have taken a photo, but I was too busy demolishing it! The blue cheese dip was also incredibly tasty. Then we piled back into the car for the drive home, a good time having been had by all.

I am counting Amnéville Zoo as my April 2014 trip for the Take 12 Trips challenge. For more trips, follow the #take12trips hashtag on Twitter

A trip to Colmar

Before Jan went to Turkey, he said that when he came back he would hire a car and we could go somewhere for a day trip.  I chose Colmar in Alsace because even after more than 7 years in Germany I still get excited about being able to just pop to France for the day. Colmar, in the Alsace region, is about an hour and 45 minute’s drive from Karlsruhe – perfect for a day trip!

The very first thing we saw when we entered Colmar was a giant Statue of Liberty. The creator of the original statue, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was born in Colmar and the city put up a huge copy for his 100th birthday. I don’t have a photo, unfortunately – it was standing on a roundabout at the entrance to town and my photography skills aren’t up to taking decent shots from a moving car!

Colmar

Being in Alsace, Colmar has switched hands between Germany and France several times, and the German influence is very much evident in its architecture… half-timbered buildings are everywhere! There were also lots of buildings with wooden shutters – like the one above. Wooden shutters always remind me of Austria. If I ever have a house of my own, I want some of those wooden shutters with little hearts cut out of them!

Here’s the outside of the cathedral. We had a quick look inside, but it wasn’t that impressive and it was very dark, so no photos of the interior. Check out how green the little roof is though!

A canal runs through the entire town, albeit underground for most of the time. There’s one part of town where it flows freely though, and that area is known as Petit Venise, or Little Venice. According to a sign we read, it was christened Little Venice because of the street below, where the entrances to the buildings can only be reached by boat:

Little Venice

Little Venice was my favourite part of Colmar, mostly because of the water. Here are some photos of the Little Venice area:

Walking back from the Little Venice area towards the main part of the old town, we spotted a traditional style carousel. I was half tempted to have a go on it, but didn’t. I did take a photo though.

Carousel

On the way back, we stopped at the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. The castle was closed (it was evening by now), but the view was nice. Here’s a photo of I have no idea what… Hills mostly, and possibly Strasbourg(?) in the background.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

After that stop, it was time to head home as we both had work the next day. Back in Karlsruhe, we stopped at a petrol station for Jan to fill the car up and I popped into the shop for some frozen pizzas… not having to cook was the perfect end to a lovely day out.