May 9, Strasbourg FR

Today was a day of rest for François but not us.  The weather is starting to wear us out a little.  We shut in yesterday to let the heavy rain pass thru.  Yesterday the weather app was saying it would be better today.  They were wrong, today was just as miserable, we had periods of very heavy rain mixed with showers, and the temperatures were in the low 50’s.  

Our Stellplatz (German for Aire) is located a few hundred yards from the Rhine, so we decided to head down there to start the day.  The river was flowing pretty fast and there was a large river cruise boat parked there.  It was a nice park, but after talking about it we decided to go ahead and head in to town for the day despite the bad weather forecast.

A German Post mail bicycle.  We followed the mail lady down the road for a while on the way to the Tram.

As we stepped off the tram in the center of Strasbourg we saw a “Free” tour going buy so we decided to join in.  It was a good tour though I think everyone’s motivation dropped when the rain and wind really started kicking in.  Strasbourg looks like it has a lot to offer.  It is an interesting blend of French and German architecture.  

The old town of Strasbourg is built on an island in the Ill River.  
Another view of the Ill River.

We ended the tour in a windy downpour, so we dived into the Tourist Information Office with about 100 other Americans.  We were debating whether to call it a day, but decided to spring for a boat tour as the weather app said the rain was going to let up a bit later in the day.  The boat trip would have been great except for the pounding rain but at least we were inside.  We went by the European Parliament which is quite an impressive modern building.  We did not get any pictures due to the heavy rain.

Our last stop for the day was the Cathedral.  It is another very beautiful building.  The highlight of this cathedral for us was the astronomical clock.  The gold hands on the clock represent the solar time, and the silver hands the local time.  It also figures that rotate around at certain times of the day representing the different phases of life parading past a figure representing death.  

The astronomical clock in the Strasbourg Cathedral.
A modern version of the last supper from the interior of the Cathedral.
The exterior of the Cathedral.

After the Cathedral we called it a day heading back on the tram to Kehl.  We had a short sun break where I leant a young group of Belgians our water can so they could fill their RV with water, one of the guys told me that he had recently hitchhiked from Miami to Houston, (never got the reason why) and could not believe how generous the people were on that trip.  Shortly after that  another band of rain drove us into François for the night.

May 7, 2019 Colmar FR

Colmar is by far the largest city we have stayed in so far on this trip while it is only 65,000 people most of the places we have been staying have populations less than 2,000 so it felt quite big.  The camp site we are staying at is about 2km’s from the center of the city so we even wimped out and bought day bus passes.  It turned out to be a good idea as by the end of the day we had walked 10 miles despite taking the bus into town.

We really enjoyed Colmar as it had a lot to see and do in a pretty compact area.  We started at the tourist office and picked up a map for the walking tour of the town.  Colmar is the home town of Frederic Bartholdi who is the artist who sculpted the Statue of Liberty.  

The metal pointers used to guide you as you follow the walking tour of Colmar.

Colmar also had a great selection of half timbered buildings but on a little grander scale than the smaller villages we have been visiting.  After a week of touring towns and villages of these half timbered towns we are still enjoying them.

Some more of the beautiful architecture of Alsace.  They do a nice job of decorating them also.

Colmar also has a section called little Venice with some small canals with homes built on the canals.  It is a pleasant area that they maximize the tourist value of the canals.

Some photos of the little Venice area of Colmar.

Up to now on the trip we had not eaten out except for our Chinese the first night.  There were two Alsace dishes we wanted to try.  The first was Bretzel, which is a pretzel with toppings.  For our mid-morning snack we had Bretzel with Munster Cheese which is a local cheese.  It was very reasonable at €1.50 and made for a nice snack.

Many variations of Bretzels on display.  We recommend the Munster.

The other dish is called Tarte-Flambeê in French or Flammakueche in Alsatian, we decided to go with the French as we could pronounce it.  It is flat bread covered with cream, onions, and other toppings.  It is very similar to pizza but quite a bit lighter.  We decided to split one for lunch and choose a simple one of cream, onions, cheese, and ham.  We were both very happy with our Tarte-Flambeê.  Ton says Trader Joes has frozen ones at home so we will be looking for them in the future.

Our Tarte-Flambeê/Flammakueche  lunch.

After covering our 10 miles on foot we decided to head back to François for a little break.  Ron took a little nap, and Ton made a nice dinner of sausages potatoes, and Choucroute which is Alsatian sauerkraut.  Something we will be looking to stock up on before we leave France as it is quite good and now a super food that helps our digestion.

After dinner we went for a little walk and watched some canoes in the river next to our campsite.  It was a nice way to wrap up a good day here.

May 6, 2019 Eguisheim FR

Today we shifted a whopping 10km’s to Colmar.  We did make a side trip to another Alsatian town on the way to Colmar.  

We both woke up about 5 am smelling smoke.  I lay there wondering if something was burning when Ton also woke up and asked if we were on fire.  This motivated me to get up and check to see if anything was burning in François.  It turns out that we were not on fire, but the smoke from the wood fires in the town next to us had settled into the little valley the campground was in.  Once we determined we were safe we went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

We finally got on the road to our primary target for the day a town called Eguisheim.  In 2013 it was voted the most beautiful village in France.  I had punched in a free parking site on the soccer field, but when we got there the town had blocked access due to all of the rain, so we headed over to the municipal parking.  The parking was brand new and high tech with bar code readers, but the area designated for RV’s cost €6 for 4 hours.  It seemed excessive but I didn’t see any other options, so I gnashed my teeth and ponied up.

The most beautiful village in France in 2013 is full of wineries of course.

Eguisheim is indeed a lovely village.  Originally a double walled village.  It is built in a circle which is unusual in France.  We walked the space between the two original walls, over time when security became less of an issue the space between the two walls was built up with homes and work spaces.  These half timbered buildings are really well preserved.  The colorful paint is from the 20th century.  Up until then the buildings were earth toned.  We had a great walk enjoying the variety of buildings.

The road between the two walls .  The houses on the left are built into the old outer wall.  The houses on the right are between the outer and inner walls.
Another view of the circular road around town.

Many of the towns we have visited in the last few days still have Easter ornaments up.  Apparently the Easter Bunny is a big deal, and in addition to a lot of bunnies the French decorate trees and bushes with colored Easter eggs. The displays remind us of the Christmas and Halloween displays we see at home.

Easter bunnies overlooking the entrance to a winery.
Not an Easter theme, but a home with nice decorations,

As we were wrapping up the walk thru town we came around a corner to finds a very imposing man dressed in medieval clothes and doing a vigorous sword dance.  It turns out he was the owner of a coffee shop who had no customers so he was filming himself in the ally.  We decided we would have a coffee.  He was an interesting character, originally from Germany, I asked him if it was a traditional dance, he said “nah, I just make it up as I go, maybe in 100 years it will become a traditional Alsatian sword dance.”

Our final stop for the day was at a nice winery recommended by the sword dancer.  

As we went to pull out of our expensive parking I inserted the barcode paper I was given when I purchased the ticket to the machine that controlled the gate.  It said reading and then did nothing, I repeated this several times without the gate opening.  Finally I got out and tried several more times figuring it might work if I was standing next to it looking irritated.  As I was about to give up and go looking for help, a guy in a parking attendants uniform walked up and took the paper, he tried a couple of times, then punched my code into his electronic device to make sure I was not trying to get away with something.  He finally started muttering about technology in French while he worked on getting the gate to open, it finally did and with a Voila and an apology we were on our way to Colmar.

May 5, 2019 Riquewihr FR

The weather had gotten a little better overnight after heavy rain as we fell asleep.  While it was still pretty cold and cloudy it was not raining.  Today we visited Riquewihr and Ribeauville.  They are both listed as must see villages in Alsace.  

The first stop was Riquewihr as we could walk there from our campground.  As we were walking into town Ton stopped me and pointed at what I thought was a wineshop. It turns out she had read about this excellent microbrewery in Ribeauville and we had found it.  We went in sampled their IPA and a Belgian Dark.  Both were excellent.  Refreshed, we headed into town.  The town was as beautiful as the guidebooks suggested, but very tourist oriented.  

The entry into Riquewihr.

As we were walking up and down the streets we saw a large group of Asian tourists and presumed they were Chinese.  It turns out they were Thai.  After spending a couple of hours in town Ton had killed the battery on her iPhone taking pictures so we decided to head back to François for lunch and to charge her phone.

After lunch we headed over to Ribeauville.  It was a short drive over in François.  Ribeauville was supposed to be larger but less picturesque than Riquewihr according to both of our guidebooks.  Since it was Sunday the parking was easy.  Our first site on entering the town were two storks nesting on a large timber building.

Storks are a big thing in Alsace.  They build these stork nest platforms in towns and fields to keep the storks from nesting on chimneys and utility poles.
Ribeauville is in a valley surrounded by vineyards with three castles overlooking it.  The combination of colorful timbered houses, the vineyards and the castles make for some great views. 

In fact despite the guidebooks Ton and I liked Ribeauville a little better.  It had more of the timbered homes, and it felt less like a tourist town and more like a real town that had great views.

A collection of half timbered buildings from Riquewihr and Ribeauville.

As we were walking thru town we came on a different group of Asian tourists, and much to our surprise they were also Thai.  It is a rare day when the only Asian tourists you meet in France, are Thai.  This time I could not resist and one of the Thai couples were taking turns turns taking pictures of each other so I asked them in Thai if they wanted me to take their picture.  They were pretty startled to have a pharang (white guy in Thai) speaking Thai to them.

This little guy was in the field next to where we parked François, who can resist a cute lamb.

May 4, 2019 Riquewihr FR

The weather has been pretty mediocre.  Nearly every day has had some showers and most days the highs have been in the 50’s and lows in the low 40’s so we have been using more gas than normal.  Today was supposed to be particularly bad with rain pretty much all day, highs in the low 40’s and lows around freezing.  When we woke up this morning the weather app had a pretty ominous warning in French about a chance of snow.  We got on the road early to cover about 120 km’s to Alsace before the worst of the weather set in.

Our Garmin did pretty good routing us for the first half of the trip until near the end she decided to take a short cut over a winding mountain road.  We were in the Vosges which are a pretty major mountain range and even the main roads were twisty.  

Ton tried to talk me into ignoring her and stay on the main road, but I figured what the heck.  The road was a little narrow and steep and ultimately pretty but while it may have saved 10 km’s it came at the cost of about 20 km’s at 40 kph as we negotiated hairpin curves while going up and down various mountains, so we did not come out ahead.

Views from our “shortcut”, note the snow on the mountain in the background.

We are planning to spend the next few days in the Alsace wine region.  The Alsace is on the border with France and Germany and over the last 250 years has changed hands between the two countries 4 times.  It is an interesting mix of French and German cultures.  

After we settled in the temperature dropped the wind kicked up and the rain starting pounding.  Some days you just need to hunker down and wait out the weather.  In the evening we did get a little walk in to break the cabin fever. 

A view of Beblenheim the little village next to our campground. 
Ton likes this because my coat matches the poppies.

Alsace

We visited Alsace for the first time in 2019 and it is one of our favorite parts of France.  While the tourism infrastructure is well developed it does not feel overrun like other parts of Europe.  We really enjoyed the food and the wine in the region as well.  Also, while a couple of the entries are marked as Kehl Germany we were based in Germany while we were visiting Strasbourg France.

May 9, 2019 Strasbourg FR

Today was a day of rest for François but not us.  The weather is starting to wear us out a little.  We shut in yesterday to let the heavy rain pass thru.  Yesterday the weather app was saying it would be better today.  They were wrong, today was just as miserable, we had periods of very heavy rain mixed with showers, and the temperatures were in the low 50’s.  

Our Stellplatz (German for Aire) is located a few hundred yards from the Rhine, so we decided to head down there to start the day.  The river was flowing pretty fast and there was a large river cruise boat parked there.  It was a nice park, but after talking about it we decided to go ahead and head in to town for the day despite the bad weather forecast.

A German Post mail bicycle.  We followed the mail lady down the road for a while on the way to the Tram.

As we stepped off the tram in the center of Strasbourg we saw a “Free” tour going buy so we decided to join in.  It was a good tour though I think everyone’s motivation dropped when the rain and wind really started kicking in.  Strasbourg looks like it has a lot to offer.  It is an interesting blend of French and German architecture.  

The old town of Strasbourg is built on an island in the Ill River.  
Another view of the Ill River.

We ended the tour in a windy downpour, so we dived into the Tourist Information Office with about 100 other Americans.  We were debating whether to call it a day, but decided to spring for a boat tour as the weather app said the rain was going to let up a bit later in the day.  The boat trip would have been great except for the pounding rain but at least we were inside.  We went by the European Parliament which is quite an impressive modern building.  We did not get any pictures due to the heavy rain.

Our last stop for the day was the Cathedral.  It is another very beautiful building.  The highlight of this cathedral for us was the astronomical clock.  The gold hands on the clock represent the solar time, and the silver hands the local time.  It also figures that rotate around at certain times of the day representing the different phases of life parading past a figure representing death.  

The astronomical clock in the Strasbourg Cathedral.
A modern version of the last supper from the interior of the Cathedral.
The exterior of the Cathedral.

After the Cathedral we called it a day heading back on the tram to Kehl.  We had a short sun break where I leant a young group of Belgians our water can so they could fill their RV with water, one of the guys told me that he had recently hitchhiked from Miami to Houston, (never got the reason why) and could not believe how generous the people were on that trip.  Shortly after that  another band of rain drove us into François for the night.

May 8, 2019 Strasbourg FR

Today we left France for the day.  We are parked up in Kehl Germany as it was the best option to visit Strasbourg France.  The problem was that when we woke up the weather report had gotten much worst.  They were now calling for heavy rain and high winds due to a “Bomb Cyclone’ that was hitting southern France.  I think a bomb cyclone is a new more dramatic way to say cold front, but it certainly gets your attention.

As we learned yesterday Colmar was the home of Frederic Bartholdi, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty.  All of the guide books said there was a replica of the statue in Colmar, but we never found it.  As we were leaving Colmar on a four lane road thru an industrial park, there was the statue in the middle of a traffic circle, so we circled around a couple of times so Ton could get a good picture.

A replica of the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, the home of the sculptor.

We had a quick drive over to Kehl as the roads were mostly freeways, and arrived before the effects of the bomb cyclone.  We decided on a quick trip into the town  to see what was there.  Like many border towns the center seemed to cater mostly to day trip shoppers from France looking for bargains.

Downtown Kehl, mostly consisting of shopping aimed at French day trip visitors.

We did get to visit a Woolworths Department Store which while they became extinct in the US about 25 years ago are still going strong in Mexico, France, and Germany. After a quick walk thru downtown Kehl, and our first visit to a German grocery store, the rain was starting to set in so we hustled back to François.

Some days we tour exotic medieval cities, and some days we hunker down in the back of François.  This afternoon we hunkered down and watched a good Netflix Movie with Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson.  

After a lot of time looking for a good French beer we have now discovered one.  We have tried two different types of Fischer Beers and they are both excellent.

The Fischer Three Alsatian Hops Blonde, a really good beer.


May 7, 2019 Colmar FR

Colmar is by far the largest city we have stayed in so far on this trip while it is only 65,000 people most of the places we have been staying have populations less than 2,000 so it felt quite big.  The camp site we are staying at is about 2km’s from the center of the city so we even wimped out and bought day bus passes.  It turned out to be a good idea as by the end of the day we had walked 10 miles despite taking the bus into town.

We really enjoyed Colmar as it had a lot to see and do in a pretty compact area.  We started at the tourist office and picked up a map for the walking tour of the town.  Colmar is the home town of Frederic Bartholdi who is the artist who sculpted the Statue of Liberty.  

The metal pointers used to guide you as you follow the walking tour of Colmar.

Colmar also had a great selection of half timbered buildings but on a little grander scale than the smaller villages we have been visiting.  After a week of touring towns and villages of these half timbered towns we are still enjoying them.

Some more of the beautiful architecture of Alsace.  They do a nice job of decorating them also.

Colmar also has a section called little Venice with some small canals with homes built on the canals.  It is a pleasant area that they maximize the tourist value of the canals.

Some photos of the little Venice area of Colmar.

Up to now on the trip we had not eaten out except for our Chinese the first night.  There were two Alsace dishes we wanted to try.  The first was Bretzel, which is a pretzel with toppings.  For our mid-morning snack we had Bretzel with Munster Cheese which is a local cheese.  It was very reasonable at €1.50 and made for a nice snack.

Many variations of Bretzels on display.  We recommend the Munster.

The other dish is called Tarte-Flambeê in French or Flammakueche in Alsatian, we decided to go with the French as we could pronounce it.  It is flat bread covered with cream, onions, and other toppings.  It is very similar to pizza but quite a bit lighter.  We decided to split one for lunch and choose a simple one of cream, onions, cheese, and ham.  We were both very happy with our Tarte-Flambeê.  Ton says Trader Joes has frozen ones at home so we will be looking for them in the future.

Our Tarte-Flambeê/Flammakueche  lunch.

After covering our 10 miles we decided to head back to François for a little break.  Ron took a little nap, and Ton made a nice dinner of sausages potatoes, and Choucroute which is Alsatian sauerkraut.  Something we will be looking to stock up on before we leave France as it is quite good and now a super food that helps our digestion.

After dinner we went for a little walk and watched some canoes in the river next to our campsite.  It was a nice way to wrap up a good day here.

May 6, 2019 Eguisheim FR

Today we shifted a whopping 10km’s to Colmar.  We did make a side trip to another Alsatian town on the way to Colmar.  

We both woke up about 5 am smelling smoke.  I lay there wondering if something was burning when Ton also woke up and asked if we were on fire.  This motivated me to get up and check to see if anything was burning in François.  It turns out that we were not on fire, but the smoke from the wood fires in the town next to us had settled into the little valley the campground was in.  Once we determined we were safe we went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

We finally got on the road to our primary target for the day a town called Eguisheim.  In 2013 it was voted the most beautiful village in France.  I had punched in a free parking site on the soccer field, but when we got there the town had blocked access due to all of the rain, so we headed over to the municipal parking.  The parking was brand new and high tech with bar code readers, but the area designated for RV’s cost €6 for 4 hours.  It seemed excessive but I didn’t see any other options, so I gnashed my teeth and ponied up.

The most beautiful village in France in 2013 is full of wineries of course.

Eguisheim is indeed a lovely village.  Originally a double walled village.  It is built in a circle which is unusual in France.  We walked the space between the two original walls, over time when security became less of an issue the space between the two walls was built up with homes and work spaces.  These half timbered buildings are really well preserved.  The colorful paint is from the 20th century.  Up until then the buildings were earth toned.  We had a great walk enjoying the variety of buildings.

The road between the two walls .  The houses on the left are built into the old outer wall.  The houses on the right are between the outer and inner walls.
Another view of the circular road around town.

Many of the towns we have visited in the last few days still have Easter ornaments up.  Apparently the Easter Bunny is a big deal, and in addition to a lot of bunnies the French decorate trees and bushes with colored Easter eggs. The displays remind us of the Christmas and Halloween displays we see at home.

Easter bunnies overlooking the entrance to a winery.
Not an Easter theme, but a home with nice decorations, note the inebriated frog on the lower right side.

As we were wrapping up the walk thru town we came around a corner to finds a very imposing man dressed in medieval clothes and doing a vigorous sword dance.  It turns out he was the owner of a coffee shop who had no customers so he was filming himself in the ally.  We decided we would have a coffee.  He was an interesting character, originally from Germany, I asked him if it was a traditional dance, he said “nah, I just make it up as I go, maybe in 100 years it will become a traditional Alsatian sword dance.”

Our final stop for the day was at a nice winery recommended by the sword dancer.  

As we went to pull out of our expensive parking I inserted the barcode paper I was given when I purchased the ticket to the machine that controlled the gate.  It said reading and then did nothing, I repeated this several times without the gate opening.  Finally I got out and tried several more times figuring it might work if I was standing next to it looking irritated.  As I was about to give up and go looking for help, a guy in a parking attendants uniform walked up and took the paper, he tried a couple of times, then punched my code into his electronic device to make sure I was not trying to get away with something.  He finally started muttering about technology in French while he worked on getting the gate to open, it finally did and with a Voila and an apology we were on our way to Colmar.

May 5, 2019 Riquewihr FR

The weather had gotten a little better overnight after heavy rain as we fell asleep.  While it was still pretty cold and cloudy it was not raining.  Today we visited Riquewihr and Ribeauville.  They are both listed as must see villages in Alsace.  

The first stop was Riquewihr as we could walk there from our campground.  As we were walking into town Ton stopped me and pointed at what I thought was a wineshop. It turns out she had read about this excellent microbrewery in Ribeauville and we had found it.  We went in sampled their IPA and a Belgian Dark.  Both were excellent.  Refreshed, we headed into town.  The town was as beautiful as the guidebooks suggested, but very tourist oriented.  

The entry into Riquewihr.

As we were walking up and down the streets we saw a large group of Asian tourists and presumed they were Chinese.  It turns out they were Thai.  After spending a couple of hours in town Ton had killed the battery on her iPhone taking pictures so we decided to head back to François for lunch and to charge her phone.

After lunch we headed over to Ribeauville.  It was a short drive over in François.  Ribeauville was supposed to be larger but less picturesque than Riquewihr according to both of our guidebooks.  Since it was Sunday the parking was easy.  Our first site on entering the town were two storks nesting on a large timber building.

Storks are a big thing in Alsace.  They build these stork nest platforms in towns and fields to keep the storks from nesting on chimneys and utility poles.

Storks are a big thing in Alsace.  They build these stork nest platforms in towns and fields to keep the storks from nesting on chimneys and utility poles.

Ribeauville is in a valley surrounded by vineyards with three castles overlooking it.  The combination of colorful timbered houses, the vineyards and the castles make for some great views.  

In fact despite the guidebooks Ton and I liked Ribeauville a little better.  It had more of the timbered homes, and it felt less like a tourist town and more like a real town that had great views.

A collection of half timbered buildings from Riquewihr and Ribeauville.

As we were walking thru town we came on a different group of Asian tourists, and much to our surprise they were also Thai.  It is a rare day when the only Asian tourists you meet in France, are Thai.  This time I could not resist and one of the Thai couples were taking turns turns taking pictures of each other so I asked them in Thai if they wanted me to take their picture.  They were pretty startled to have a pharang (white guy in Thai) speaking Thai to them.

This little guy was in the field next to where we parked François, who can resist a cute lamb.

May 4, 2019 Riquewihr FR

The weather has been pretty mediocre.  Nearly every day has had some showers and most days the highs have been in the 50’s and lows in the low 40’s so we have been using more gas than normal.  Today was supposed to be particularly bad with rain pretty much all day, highs in the low 40’s and lows around freezing.  When we woke up this morning the weather app had a pretty ominous warning in French about a chance of snow.  We got on the road early to cover about 120 km’s to Alsace before the worst of the weather set in.

Our Garmin did pretty good routing us for the first half of the trip until near the end she decided to take a short cut over a winding mountain road.  We were in the Vosges which are a pretty major mountain range and even the main roads were pretty twisty.  

Ton tried to talk me into ignoring her and stay on the main road, but I figured what the heck.  The road was a little narrow and steep and ultimately pretty but while it may have saved 10 km’s it came at the cost of about 20 km’s at 40 kph as we negotiated hairpin curves while going up and down various mountains, so we did not come out ahead.

Views from our “shortcut”, note the snow on the mountain in the background.

We are planning to spend the next few days in the Alsace wine region.  The Alsace is on the border with France and Germany and over the last 250 years has changed hands between the two countries 4 times.  It is an interesting mix of French and German cultures.  

After we settled in the temperature dropped the wind kicked up and the rain starting pounding.  Some days you just need to hunker down and wait out the weather.  In the evening we did get a little walk in to break the cabin fever. 

A view of Beblenheim the little village next to our campground.
Ton likes this because my coat matches the poppies.