Nuremberg – Our Last Stop

Our last stop and point of disembarkation for our Christmas Market River Cruise was Nuremberg, Germany.  We had a pretty full day here touring before heading home the next day, but I would have loved more time!

Nuremberg envoked a range of emotions for me.  Being a lifelong and enthusiastic student of history, this beautiful place is shadowed in the echos of Hitler and his reign of terror.  I often marvel at the some of the cool locations I have visited and wonder dreamily whose steps I am following.  But I STOOD where Hitler stood and it brought tears to my eyes.  Life’s contemplations resurfaced and one begins to ponder this world.  That’s pretty deep for a bus tour!

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We continued on to the location of the Nuremberg Trials, then into the Old City…which is stunning!!!  But there was that shadow….and it is hard to shake even now in reflection.

The Old City of Nuremberg, with its ancient castle on a hill, HUGE Christmas Market and warm and welcoming people, invited us in.  I am a sucker for a castle, so we gladly toured it and enjoyed the views.

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The inner courtyard of the castle.

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A beautiful view from the great hall.

Nuremberg definitely had the biggest Christmas Market – and I would say, the best prices as well!  We found a lot of our goodies there and enjoyed Nuremberg sausages and saurkraut, German ginger cookies, and my most favorite gluehwein was found at the Scotish cultural booth (amoung other nations represented in this small area of the Market) – it had whiskey in it and it was lovely!!!

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Nuremberg has something for everyone!  I can’t wait to go back and visit again!!!!

Bamburg, Germany

The vineyards continued as we sailed further into the Bavarian region of Germany.  Bamburg is another city with much of its historical architecture intack and as it was built on seven hills surround the Main, the views from the cathedral and fortress were breathtaking!

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This is the view from the hill that the cathedral sits on.  This has got to be one of the most stunning photos I have ever taken!!!!

Bamburg is known for its famous mills and wine and a unique beer – smoked beer or Rauchbier!  There is one particular pub in town that sells it and of course, we had to check it out!  We poured over two of the famous hills of Bamburg, wound our way thorught the ancient old city streets, sipped Rauchbier in the Christmas Market and felt like we belonged!

Here are my favorite pictures from this beautiful stop on the Main.

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A look into the village from one of the seven hills!

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A look upwards towards the bell tower of the fortress.

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Quaint neighborhoods are all around the old town.

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I’ve heard that allowing vines to grow on the outsides of buildings is not good for the building (you can see these are cleverly trellissed). I don’t think these guys know that – and I’m glad – because it is beautiful!

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My hubby trying out the smoked beer!

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An iconic Bamburg view of one of the most famous mills.

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I loves these details…this handsome little fellow holds back shutters.

Wurzburg, Germany

Oh, Wurzburg – what a gorgeous city.  Our 4th stop on our Rhine and Main Christmas Market River Cruise was the city of Wurzburg.  This place had it all!  A palace (Wurzburg Residence), a fortress (Fortress Marienberg) and wineries as far as the eye can see – literally!  They also had a wonderful Christmas Market, but it was almost secondary to everything else there was to see!

Our first stop in Wurzburg was the Residence.  This palace of the prince-bishops of Bavaria was modeled after Versailles and you can see it immediately as you tour!  Photos were not permitted inside, but I got some gorgeous pictures through the rain of the small but amazing gardens.

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The Residence – looks like a compact version of Versailles.

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The gardens…

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I bet they are amazing during the spring and summer!

We headed back to the boat for lunch, then began walking – over to the “Old Stone Bridge” where every day, locals gather to enjoy the company of friends and a glass of the local wine.  We hiked up to the fortress – an imposing structure – that is surrounded by vinyards and walking paths.  The view of the town from the Fortress was amazing and it was worth the climb!

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The Fortress! And a fortress it was!

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Very Cinderella-esque!

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Well, my German is pretty rusty, but I think we get the point!!

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We took the meandering walk down into the village after visiting the fortress. The hillside (and hillsides as far as the eye can see) are sprawling vineyards!

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A look down towards the river – that is our river boat in the distance!

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Statue in the vineyard.

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From the bottom – a look towards the fortress.

We strolled back over the Old Stone Bridge, partook in the local tradition of a drink, then found our way to beautiful Christmas Markets throughout the old city.  All in all, it was a great day with fabulous sights and memories to last a lifetime!!!!

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I am standing on the Old Stone Bridge here – getting ready to enjoy my glass of wine!

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Europeans take their wine consumption seriously – there are STIFF fines if an establishment gives you a short pour! Same applies to beer!

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This photo really captures the day – two glasses of white wine, enjoyed amongst new friends, with a breathtaking fortress in the background! THIS is why I travel!!!!

Wertheim, Germany

Our third day on the river docked us at Wertheim, Germany.  What an AMAZING medieval village on a bend in the Main River.  The larger cities in Germany (and much of Europe) saw a great deal of damage and rebuilding during and after the World Wars.  Many of the villages and non-strategically located towns saw little to no damage and these towns are absolute gems.  Wertheim fits this bill in some part.

Wertheim is located at the confluence of the Tauber and Main Rivers.  It is in Bavaria, but folks here are “Franconians” – a cultural distinction they will happily tell you about!  What we loved about Wertheim was the quaintness of this village.  They did not have a Christmas Market, but the beauty of the town was enchanting and around every turn there was something magical.

Another fabulous feature of this gorgeous little town was the medieval fortification.  First records show a fortification in this down between the 7th and 8th centuries and the castle proper grew out of this in the 12th and 13th centuries.  We walked to and explored all throughout this amazing structure and stood in awe of the commanding view of the Main and the town itself.  It was exactly what I was looking for on this cruise – castles!!!!

Here are some photos from Wertheim.

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This is an example of the many half-timbered homes in Wertheim. These two are situated on the main village square.

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The entrance to Burg Wertheim. This structure is only partially intact but is undergoing renovation efforts and it pen to the public for self guided walking tours for 2 Euros each. There is also a small cafe at the castle and an events room. The structure is amazing and the views…..priceless!!!

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This the view of the Main River from the top of the tower of the castle.  Absolutely stunning!!!

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These half-timbered houses are just incredible!

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Looking down into the town from the road UP to the Burg Wertheim.

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The mighty Main from the Burg (castle)

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The castle was absolutley amazing!!! How it was dug out of the hillside just boggles my mind – but it sure makes for great pictures!!

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The ultimate medieval castle!

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A defensive position “behind” the castle headed uphill.

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Looking UP the tower!

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 4

Well, we have come to our last day – and I think the timing is just right!  We really did SO much on this trip and it was absolutely amazing!  I think for us, a four day stay was just right – enough to learn how to get around the city, see some major highlights, wander around winding streets and canals, and think about the things we haven’t yet seen.

Today we did our final Rick Steves’ audio tour and this one was about and through the Red Light District.  This is the oldest section of Amsterdam and a place not for the faint of heart.  As Americans, we are often rather sheltered in our everyday lives, and the Red Light District of Amsterdam makes Fremont Street in Las Vegas look like kindergarten!  As this is a family show, I won’t post any pictures or give you many descriptors here, but let’s just say the folks in Amsterdam embrace their ability to live a life less restrained by a government attempting to impose and enforce moral values.  For what it’s worth, it seems to be working in Amsterdam.

We visited the Jordaan neighborhood again today, strolled back and forth, in and out of the Red Light District, “Chinatown”, the old city, the Damstraat area and everywhere in between.  All told today, we took over 18,000 steps!!!  We ate some more of the famous Amsterdam French fries, I tried a waffle with chocolate and “caramel” (but is actually tasted like melted circus peanuts) and enjoyed dinner at a small Pad Thai place.  We even popped into a pub near the Jordaan that had Oriental RUGS on the tables instead of table clothes.  It was different!

We have explored a lot of this really cool city, but there is still a lot to do for another trip!   Until next time, Amsterdam!  Keep doin’ YOU!

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I love the mugs at our hotel!!!

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The architecture is so captivating!!!!

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One of the tidal flow gates – they open and close to allow “fresh” water to clean out the canals and help to control water levels.

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Kelly’s “Polish” smile and my “American” smile at the Anne Frank house.

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The Westerkerk in the distance.

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So many people say, “I don’t want to travel to Europe in the winter because it will be cold”. Well, it was in the 40s and 50s while we were here. There were numerous flowers blooming and plants budding. There were fewer crowds and great prices. Why wouldn’t want to travel to Europe in the winter?

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Classic Amsterdam hooks and pulleys throughout the city – and we even saw some in use during our visit!

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What a view!

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Check out the houseboat roofs! There are some 2500 houseboats in Amsterdam – some are for sale for over a million dollars! WHAT!!!

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I really loved taking pictures of the Westerkerk.

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Here is the pub with the carpets on the table.

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It was a little strange – anyone ever hear of this or seen this before?

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The “best” French fries in the city?? Well, the fires were great but we liked the sauce from another fry place. This one had 24 different options!

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Ah, the Amsterdam waffle – and boy, was it good!!!!

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My favorite traveling companion and I.

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In the old city.

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 3

Today was a bit of a later start – we had a canal cruise dinner scheduled for 7:30pm so we knew it would be too long of a day to hit the pavement at 9am.  This is also the beauty of really diving into one single place for 4 days and not traveling around so much – you can take your time a bit more and have a more relaxed touring schedule.

We decided to pull out another Rick Steves’ audio tour today and did the Amsterdam City Walk.  I love these for the knowledge they provide.  I learned that there are just over 700,000 inhabitants of Amsterdam and pretty much all of them have bikes – or more than one, even!  That is pretty obvious by all the bikes we have seen parked along the streets and the tens of bikers that have nearly killed us zooming by!

During our walking tour, we saw a lot of the south side of the city – the bottom of the “U” shape of the canals, if you will.  We passed by a canal lined with tulip markets and passed hundreds of shops and trinket stores.  We found an amazing Italian restaurant for a late lunch and our eyes were clearly too big for our stomachs!!!  We walked that meal off, winding down the brick lined city streets marveling at the gorgeous architecture and admiring the Amsterdam way of life; an attitude that is straight forward and yet live and let live.

Our canal dinner cruise was absolutely amazing!!!!  It has been the highlight of the trip so far and that is saying a lot since we have had an amazing time!  The whole experience was about 2.5 hours and for that entire time we gawked at the stunning buildings, took pictures of the festive lights (there is a light exhibit going on on the canals until 19 January) and enjoyed a four course meal, wine, water and coffee.  Really, I don’t know how it could’ve been any better!!!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day.

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The Royal Palace – technically, yes – but it used to be Town Hall.

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Canal-side tulip market.

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But do not bring them into the US – they will get taken away from you and you could get a hefty fine!

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Our lunch – all in all we got a caprese salad, a Gorgonzola salad, a vegetarian pizza, mushroom penne and 3 calzones – all for 60 Euros!!

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Oh, the sweets!!!!

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A canal boat awaiting passengers.

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Cheers to the good life!

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Our dinner cruise was magnificent.

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Seven bridges canal!

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The Anne Frank house from the canal.

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Westerkerk from the canal.

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My handsome date for the evening.

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The Basilica of Saint Nicholas.

 

Expedition Amsterdam – Day 2

Today was a gorgeous day!  It was sunny and in the upper 40s – a perfect day to stroll the streets of the Jordaan.

We headed into the city today around 10am by bus, picked up a tram in the city and headed to the DAM area.  Here, we started our first Rick Steves’ walking tour that we downloaded before the trip on the Rick Steves’ Europe Audio APP.  These are fabulous resources at your fingertips for free – Rick Steves’ has been touring Europe (and the world) for 30+ years and has provided many fabulous tour books, audio interviews, TV shows and free “guided” tours for listeners.  We have done his audio walking tours in Florence, Rome and now Amsterdam and love using his tour books as as our go-to before any during all our European trips.  You should check it out!

We strolled along the smaller canals of the Jordaan – a quaint neighborhood west of the larger 3 canal ring.  It was gorgeous!  We had a wonderful lunch near the Westerkerk (Western Church), toured the Anne Frank House, checked out the Cheese Museum, had a drink on a random dock in a random canal, ate some street fries with “Belgium Mayonnaise” (mayo with salt and vinegar), strolled the Red Light District then headed home.  In total, we had over 16,000 steps today and every one of them was awesome!

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During our walking tour, we came across not only beautiful bridges, amazing architecture and small streets, we also met some interesting people!

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At the “Homomonument”.

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A “semi-private” urinal. Interesting!

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These canals are large enough for houseboats – not all are.

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This quaint canal in the Jordaan was absolutely stunning.

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Flowers in January. And people say it’s too cold to travel to Europe in winter!

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A secret garden.

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My favorite neighborhood so far.

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The residents of Amsterdam have a fabulous sense of humor. I am guessing people have been in his boat before without his permission!

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Afternoon pick me up!

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Canal in the Jordaan.

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The Westerkerk at night.

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Who could say no to the cheese museum? And it was free!

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By the way, the gouda here is to die for!!!!

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From our small dock in the small canal. Perfection with a full moon!

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There’s our dockside table outside a Brown Bar – these are OLD neighborhood bars that have been around so long that the walls and ceiling have aged to a warm shade of brown from all the decades of smoking.

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Full moon over Amsterdam.

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Fries with sauce seem to be a popular savory snack here. Right up my alley!

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A little blurry but WOW! It was such a beautiful evening.

 

Expedition Amsterdam – Arrival Day

Last May, we saw a great deal on a four night trip to Amsterdam.  As we had never been before, we decided to ask some friends to join us and take on this new adventure!  Here is a glimpse of our trip day by day.

Overnight flights can be rough – but this one was direct and we arrived in Amsterdam at 8:30am local time and hit the ground running.

We took a taxi to our hotel – IBIS Amsterdam City West – checked in (we were fortunate that our rooms were ready so early in the morning) and headed out to explore the city around 12:30pm.

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Our adorable “double” room at the Ibis Amsterdam City West. Comfy and quaint.

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No bells and whistles, but certainly clean and comfortable including a lovely breakfast each morning.

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This bathroom is neat – it is like a bathroom “pod” – it reminded me of a cruise ship bathroom.

We bought a four day transportation pass (24 Euros each) and took the bus into Amsterdam Central (about a 15 minute ride).  From there, we explored the inner canal area, including the Red Light District and surrounding areas.  We ate an early dinner then headed back to our hotel around 6pm.  All and all, it was a bonus day that we enjoyed, getting our bearings, seeing the Red Light District during the day and figuring out the layout of the canal rings.  Tomorrow – the Jordaan District and Anne Frank Museum.

Here is a picture Diary of the day – the PG-13 version!

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Our first photo upon arrival.

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Well, this sums up Amsterdam – a cannabis shop, a snack shop and “Pimp” Steak! All that is missing is a Waffle or Pancake shop!!!

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Truer words were never spoken for me!

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I enjoyed hearing these guys clipping and clopping along during the day.

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Classic canal pic!

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Our first selfie.

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Red Light District – and I thought Vegas was a bit racy:)

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Beautiful architecture.

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I love this.

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I mean, wow!!!

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American tourists!!!

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I can handle snorting chocolate – yes, folks, snorting chocolate! That is right up my alley!

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As evening settles.

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Canal at night.

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Venice of the north!

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Crepe number one in the books!!!!!

Strasbourg, France

I have to admit, I am a Francophile.  I love France and all things French, so when we arrived at our second port of call, Strasbourg, I immediately felt at home!  As this was our only port in France, I really soaked in the French culture, but also admired the unique marriage with German culture presented in Strasbourg.  After all, in 1914 alone, the Alsace region of France changed nationalities eight times!

We enjoyed our Christmas Market touring and also became truly besotted with the charm and enchantment of Strasbourg.  Some would say it is too German to be French, and too French to be German, but I think it is just right!

Here is my photo diary! I hope you enjoy it!!!

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Many of the streets of Strasbourg are lined with beautiful sycamore trees. These nests are for storks!

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The tram system in Strasbourg is pretty special! In many places, it runs on grass to help reduce noise and a couple of the trams have mower blades underneath to keep the grass neatly mowed! Cool!

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How do you deliver packages to the medieval streets of Strasbourg?

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The architecture!!!

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Notre Dame Cathedral of Strasbourg

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The decorations were beautiful and sometimes, a bit outrageous!

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We were in Strasbourg during the day and did not get to see the lights, but I bet it was gorgeous!

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Classic Europe

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The old winding city streets were so charming!

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Vin chaud? White or Red?

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Even early in the day, the Christmas Markets were busy.

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The rivers are the lifeline of Strasbourg.

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Some new friends – swans everywhere!

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I was in France – a banana and Nutella crepe was a MUST!!!

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More bird friends outside my Juliette balcony on board.

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Strasbourg river walk.

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The happy tourists!

Amazing Alps

When we travel, we love day tripping!!!  We have day tripped our way around the French countryside, southern and northern Italy, Scotland, England and now, the Alps!

Day tripping allows for a GLIMPSE of a place.  It is hard to “dive in” when you only have a short amount of time, but when we travel abroad especially, we want to see as much as we can, so the old American pastime is right up our alley!

This trip to Germany, Switzerland and France for our Christmas Market river cruise really lent itself well to a day trip.  While staying in Basel pre-cruise, we took a day and headed to the Alps.  We picked up our rental in Basel early morning, drove about an hour and 45 minutes to Interlaken, and decided to go a bit further, up to Grindewald (elevation 3,392 feet).  There, we parked and bought the world’s most expensive train tickets (about $200 US per person – YIKES) for a 45 minute cog train ride up, up, up to our first train station, Kleine Scheidegg (elevation 6762 feet).

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Grindelwald, Switzerland

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Grindewald from the window of the train.

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The cogs! The lifeline!

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This teepee is at the Kleine Scheidegg station. I do not know why!

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Time to change trains!  And yes, it was snowing.

Here, we checked out the place, and boarded the Jungfrau train – another cog that brought us THROUGH the mountains to the highest train station in Europe (which happened to be IN the mountain) – Junfraujoch, elevation 11,333 feet!!

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One of the small settlements on the way up to Jungfrau (young girl). Do you see the glaciers in the background? Amazing!!!

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The train station in the mountain.

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Outside the observatory. It was cold and windy!

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In the ice castle IN the mountain!!!

We explored but it was snowed in – but we wouldn’t have changed that experience for anything!  It was so cool!!!!!

After we got back down from Kleine Scheidegg, we drove to Lauterbrunnen, explored briefly at dusk, went to a pizza place (yeah, seriously) and then drove back to Basel.  This was a fabulous day trip and we took SO many gorgeous pictures.

Here are the rest of our favorites!!!!

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Looking back as we journey towards Klein Scheidegg.

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Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland. We had spent much of the day in Grindelwald and climbing Jungfrau (by cog railway), then decided to take another small mountain pass at dusk and were treated to this delight!

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This gorgeous waterfall is the first thing you see when you enter this valley. Absolutely stunning!

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If a cemetery can be pretty, this one fits the bill.

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Well, you have to have beer with pizza!

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Any European road trip must include a stop at the Autogrill. The rest stations in Germany (just like Italy) did NOT disappoint – adorable trinkets, great food options, but expensive water – you should buy it in town at the local corner store – not here – oh, and if you need to use a bathroom – bring along a Euro!

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My German isn’t that great, but the word for “exit” is kinda funny! And I feel like a 10 year old when I say it:)