The Eiffel Tower and a Train Ride Back to Amsterdam Again

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Another splendid sunny summer’s day greeted us on Tuesday, August 13th. The one last thing Grace wanted to see in Paris before we left was the Eiffel Tower, so we made straightway for it. We spent the morning walking to it, around it, and admiring it from every angle. Although we could have, she had no desire to go up it, and neither did Errin with her fear of heights. We were content enjoying it from ground level.

IMG_1579One aspect of it had changed, however, since my last visit. Before, one was able to walk right underneath it and gaze up at the inside.  Lines were formed for the various tours around the plaza beneath it.  This time there was a tall glass barrier wall completely surrounding the base. You could only go under it IF you had a ticket to go up; otherwise, you stayed outside. That was disappointing because I had hoped to walk the girls through the garden area on one side of the tower. There’s a pond, a little waterfall, and some lovely small winding paths that meander around. We could only see it from the other side of the fence. Such a shame as it is such a beautiful little garden.

Before crossing the river on the north side of the Tower, we explored an eatery area along the quay. They were cooking up some yummy looking sausage, onions, and peppers. Not sure what its name was, but it sure got my taste buds watering.

IMG_1582We opted for another ice cream instead. Grace had been sampling Pistachio in every city we visited; she really liked Paris’  version!

We crossed the big bridge and meandered over to the Gardens of Trocadero with its beautiful canon-like fountains to eat our picnic lunch.

We also had very excellent views of the tower from this vantage point. It was quite a nice spot to picnic. We watched the water spray, admired the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed a bit of people watching while we were at it.

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IMG_1595The clouds were starting to form up, and Grace was still a bit tired and feeling kind of puny, so we spent the rest of the day back at the hostel in Montmartre, had some dinner, and got a good night’s sleep in our cozy hostel. We had some packing to do as well because we would be taking a train back to Amsterdam in the morning.

Predictably the morning came, and it was so pleasant to wake up to see the dome of Sacre Coeur shining in the mornings’ light one last time outside my window.

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After breakfast, we checked out of the hostel, said au revoir, grabbed our belongings and proceeded to walk a short distance down Rue de Dunkerque to the Gare du Nord – the North Train Station. We got some coffee and tea (and some new names) from Starbucks in the station and found a place to sit amongst other travelers as we waited for our train.

As usual, Grace made friends with the nearest canine!

Before long, we had boarded and got settled in nicely for the 4-5 hour ride.

We had to change trains at one point about halfway through the journey. I think perhaps it was Brussels, but don’t quote me on that. Luckily we didn’t have to wait long cuz there wasn’t much available seating on the platform.

The train ride was uneventful, and once again, the view from the window seat left much to be desired as far as scenery. We arrived in Amsterdam late in the afternoon. Grace had the bus and tram scene in Amsterdam nailed at this point, and she navigated us through the city to our next hostel at Vondelpark.

By this time we were famished. It had been a long time since lunch, so once we stowed our gear and got settled in our room, we walked over to the Leidseplein nearby and started looking for a bite to eat and something to drink. That’s when we discovered the Bull Dog bar where Grace could enjoy some sweet potato fries. Yum.

Afterward, we wandered along the back streets of the area, looking in shops as it began to grow dark and until we really had to get something substantial to eat for dinner. We came across this table for three on a sidewalk cafe that fit our fancy perfectly. Besides, it had a very tempting special: Ribs, Steak, or Chicken dinner with salad and potato!

IMG_1669We plunked ourselves down and enjoyed a very satisfying meal.  Errin and I ordered the steak; Grace wanted Chicken. It also was served with a free drink of our choice.

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After we devoured that meal, we were quite surprised to find out from our waiter that it also included dessert and an after-dinner drink!  Errin opted for Apple pie, I chose Flan, and Grace ordered a trio of fruit Sorbet. Such a deal for 13.50 Euro!  We were pleasantly satiated, and it didn’t cost us a bundle! Wow!

Needless to say, after that meal, we went into sleep coma mode, so we sauntered back to the hostel, cozied up in our duvets, and slept like a rock after a long day of traveling.

We had two more days to spend in Amsterdam, unlike our first visit of only one full day. In my next post, I’ll be showing you all the fun we had touring that city upon a bicycle! The only way to get around in Amsterdam! Until the next time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montmartre Museum

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Monday, August 12th, was kind of a lazy, hang-out at the hostel kind of day. We were all just a tad bit tired from all of the explorations around Germany for a couple of weeks. We slept in on the quiet Monday morning and lounged around most of the day. It was nice to kick back and not do anything. Later in the afternoon, however, I wanted to do something even though the girls still wanted more rest.

I remembered a museum close by that I had wanted to visit the first time I visited Paris about 3 years ago – the Musee de Montmartre! It had been closed for renovations on my earlier visit. Now was the perfect time to go and check it out, so off I went.

The museum has a permanent collection of paintings, posters, and drawings signed by Toulouse-Lautrec, Modigliani, Kupka, Steinlen, Valadon, and Utrillo.

The art recounts the history of Montmartre, including the innovative artist studios and the infamous cabarets of the Lapin Agile and the Moulin Rouge.

The buildings the museum occupies were built over three centuries ago as the Hotel Demarne and the Maison du Bel Air. The Bel Air House is the oldest building in Montmartre. In its heyday, it was a residence and a meeting place for many artists, including Auguste Renoir, Suzanne Valadon, and Émile Bernard, who had their studios here. Artists started to move to Montmartre in 1870, and the cafes and cabarets multiplied in the 1880s. The effervescent bohemian spirit and its creative energy soon came to characterize Montmartre.

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IMG_1422The buildings and the grounds surrounding them were worth looking at for starters, let alone the treasures I might find inside. I noticed the map hanging on the wall and decided to explore the grounds first and then tour the rooms inside the museum.

IMG_1434Quite a lovely garden it was too, with various levels and unique little nooks and crannies hidden here and there amongst all of the plants and greenery. It was absolutely delightful. I could easily spend a good deal of time here. I can see how it could lend itself so well to stir the artistic creativity of its inhabitants!

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Here’s a perfect example, The Swing. Renoir painted the picture in this very garden, and this is the swing in the garden that inspired his imagination in 1876! That’s cool.

 

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Montmartre sits upon a hill, and apart from its artistic inhabitants, it has quite a history of its own. In the 15th century, the north and northeast slopes of the hill, there was a village which was surrounded by vineyards, gardens, and peach and cherry orchards. The first wind-generated mills were built on the western slope in 1529, grinding wheat, barley, and rye. There were thirteen mills at one time, but by the late nineteenth century, only two remained.

A flight of stairs in the garden leads down to the remaining current-day vineyard and gardens. Although that area is not open to the public, there is a spot along the fence that you can see the loved and well-tended gardens.

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IMG_1494If you look near the center of the picture on the right, you will see a small terra-cotta colored section of a wall just beyond the grapevines, which are draped with protective cloth in the vineyard. Behind that small wall is a building. (See picture below.)IMG_1492

 

It is the site of the Lapin Agile – a famous cabaret. The mascot, a rabbit, was painted by André Gill, and the rabbit was known as ‘Le Lapin à Gill’ (Gill’s Rabbit). The name was later changed to Lapin Agile (which has the exact same pronunciation) and means Agile Rabbit.  I can just imagine the many artists who lived on this property traipsing down this staircase, past the vineyards and gardens as they headed to the cabaret nearby!

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The gardens and the atmosphere have a certain ‘rustic feel’ to them, making this is an exceptional site in the very heart of Paris.

After touring the gardens, I headed inside and began surveying each of the many exhibition rooms of various artists. The first I came across was George Dorignac. 

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Next, I explored the studio and the apartment of Suzanne Valadon.

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Above right, the studio as seen from the garden; below, the studio from the inside…

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Their apartment was in adjoining rooms.

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In another section, the rich history and culture of Montmartre was presented with numerous old photographs and paintings depicting what it looked like way back when with its cabarets, gypsum mines, and windmills.

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According to the information provided, “theatre, music, circus, and dance have all played an essential part in the make-up of Montmartre and revolved around the cabaret performances. The most celebrated cabaret, the Chat Noir, welcomed several performances of the shadow theatre, which was created in 1866 by Henri Rivière and Henry Somm. At the end of 1887, Rivière managed to transform a small shadow show into an extraordinary technical and elaborate artistic performance according to the displays.”

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There were so many paintings by numerous famous artists in the various rooms of the two main buildings. I was really enjoying the multiple exhibitions of each.  I have only shared a smidgeon of the treasures it held. For such a small museum, it sure had a plethora of colorful treasures by some very talented artists.

Then there was a whole room dedicated to the can-can! Ooh-la-la! That was fun!

Montmartre Museum is perhaps Paris’ best-kept secret! An art museum that is not crowded at all. I almost had the entire place to myself most of the time, which is hard to say in this city! It is also the perfect size for a museum, with enough things to look at but not so massive you need an entire day to see it! Montmartre Museum has a lot to offer in a quiet and unassuming atmosphere.IMG_1420

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Next time you’re in Paris, you should try to check it out! It even offers excellent views of the big city below and its iconic landmarks!

 

 

 

The Historic Heart of Paris

It was our first full day in Paris, and there was so much to see and do in this magnificent city. It seemed appropriate to start our explorations in the center – at the heart of Paris – to start where Paris did on the big island in the middle of the river Seine. Standing proudly at that center is the famous Notre Dame cathedral.

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Because of the horrendous fire that recently ravaged this iconic treasure, it was totally encased in a protective barrier wall, and therefore, we couldn’t get very close, let alone inside.

While standing near it and looking first hand at the damage it sustained, I felt grateful I had the opportunity to visit it a few years ago and had the chance to see what it looked like inside before it burned. What a shame! What a loss!

At the same time, however, it was comforting to see all of the construction efforts they were making to restore it to its former beauty and that they were already making such fantastic progress.

We wandered around the building, gaping up at the majestic ornate exterior. Eventually,  we reached the south end of it where Pont Neuf juts out into the Seine at the southern end of the island that Notre Dame is perched upon.IMG_1290

I noticed that a river cruise boat was boarding passengers below us at the dock, so I suggested we also climb aboard, take a one-hour cruise, and see a little bit more of the sites of the city from the vantage point of a boat.  The girls liked that idea. 

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We enjoyed views of Paris’ famous attractions as we glided along the water, passing by the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and of course, Notre-Dame Cathedral. We also saw a lot of the details of the statuary and carvings on the bridges that you can’t see very well from the street level, if at all, without passing underneath them on the river.

From the boat, we could also see Parisians enjoying all kinds of activities along the bank, including a lively swing dance. It looked like a whole lot of fun, and I secretly wished I could join them!

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Following the river cruise, we began exploring the Left Bank area. To start with, the river is lined with many vendors selling artwork, old posters, photographs, books and maps, and a few typical types of souvenirs in the permanent wooden housings. Each one is like a closet that they can throw open the doors and have everything on display instantaneously. They are chock full of attractive and artful curiosities.

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At the end of the block, we spotted a small park with a rose garden setting and agreed this would be the perfect spot to enjoy our picnic lunch. The park, called Square Rene Viviani, is a welcome oasis in the middle of the city. We enjoyed eating our sandwiches amongst the locals and delighted in feeding the crusts to our sandwiches to the local pigeons as well. 

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IMG_1297After our respite, we wandered further through the square away from the river to continue our explorations.

IMG_1303Being the gardener that I am, the curiosity of the place was undoubtedly the oldest tree of Paris, an acacia planted in 1601. It is kind of a sad, tired-looking old tree, and it has to be supported with cement pillars, like an old man on crutches, but it’s still growing by golly! Imagine being that old…

Just beyond the tree near the exit of the garden is another ancient specimen, a tiny church. IMG_1305Like Notre Dame, it is one of Paris’ oldest religious buildings.

The old church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre was located on the Pilgram road to Santiago de Compostela. The church was at the intersection of two Roman roads and was built during the 13th Century. The Gothic facade of the church has disappeared, but it remains an excellent example of the transition between Romanesque art and Gothic art.

At this point, the old twisty lanes of Paris meander through the marketplace beyond tempting us with all sorts of yummy things to eat. It was buzzing with activity and exciting things to look at in the shops.  Errin even spotted a pirate along the way!

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We crossed back over the bridge to start making our way back to the Metro Station we had emerged from earlier that day. Along our route, we passed Saint Chappelle with its stunning stained glass windows, the Palace of Justice, and the massive building next to it, the Prison where Marie Antoinette was held until her execution in 1793.

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There is a striking feature on the outside face of the imposing Corner Tower of the Prison – a massive, fancy, and commanding clock.

Since 1371, the Clock Tower has housed this extraordinary clock. Initially, its primary purpose was to help the people regulate their activities during the day and night. A couple of 100 years later, it was enhanced by gilding, and a multicolored face was also added and surrounded with allegories of Law and Justice.

A Latin inscription is found below the clock, which when translated, says, “This mechanism, which divides time into perfectly equal twelve hours, helps you to protect justice and defend the law.” It’s a fine specimen of a clock,  that’s for sure.

Cite MetroJust across the street from the clock and the Palace of Justice is the plaza leading to the Cité Metro station, where we had emerged a few hours earlier.

In the morning, when we first arrived, we had wandered through stalls that were set up as a marketplace that had all kinds of cute little birds for sale. Grace is enamored with animals of any ilk, so naturally, she was drawn to these sweet small avian specimens that were so close and approachable.

In the early evening hours, once we were back at our hostel and rested a bit from our adventure, we went back outside on the lively streets of Montmarte in search of a gluten-free creperie we discovered was nearby. Just as the map stated, it was only a block or two away, and we were soon cozied up to a sidewalk cafe table, ordering our dinner crepes and enjoying a refreshing smoothie.

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Absolutely stuffed after consuming those lovely crepes, we slowly sauntered back to the hostel, admiring Sacre Coeur and some entertaining graffiti artwork on buildings along the way. 

Yet another satisfying day of discovery in a new environment and culture, just what traveling is all about, the experiences!

 

Triberg Falls & a Fast Train to Paris

During the first week of August, Errin, Grace, and I had been having a whole lot of fun exploring Bavaria and its picturesque villages. We raced down the mountainsides on Alpine Coasters. We climbed to the top of the mountains via chairlifts for spectacular panoramic views of the Swiss and Austrian Alps while working our way further and further in an easterly direction exploring fairy-tale castles and villages filled to the brim with creativity.

We switched course on Thursday, however, and decided to drive in a westerly direction instead.  We had abruptly changed our itinerary the week before. That change had bumped our agenda a day ahead of schedule. Doing so had some effect on what sites we could visit as we made our way to the next destination.  Because we didn’t get our rental car until late in the afternoon last week, we weren’t able to visit a couple of places in the Black Forest en route to Bavaria as initially planned.  We decided to back-track a bit at the end of the week, on Thursday, to check out what we had missed earlier in the week.

oberstaufen to Triberg Falls mapWe drove about 100 miles to a charming mountain hamlet village tucked deep in the Black Forest called Triberg, a charming village that proudly boasts and brags about their intricately hand-carved cuckoo clock collections!  This place is cuckoo heaven if ever there was one. Cuckoos galore! 

Below is a sampling of some of the intricately and beautifully hand-carved clocks that caught my eye! Many of them had a price tag that was well outside my budget, however! 

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The store had one section set aside for demonstrating how they make clocks. Although there wasn’t anyone to conduct a demonstration, we saw the tools and the stencils and patterns the woodworkers use for laying out designs on smooth wooden surfaces before carving. The workshop area included all manner of paraphernalia for cutting detailed images in fine-grained wood and building a unique kind of clock. There were even a pair of little bellows on display that were hand-operated, which demonstrated how they make the cuckoo sound inside the clock. So, that’s how they do that! 

The girls also noticed some incredibly soft bunny rabbits in the toy section of the baby department they wanted to cuddle, and we found all manner of other whimsical giftware and stylish local dress costumes we admired as well. 

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The quaint village also has a stunning set of waterfalls right next to it that you can easily access via a vast network of interconnecting pathways wandering through the neighboring woodland hillside. We spent quite a bit of time following the paths that traced the streams’ course up the ravine, stopping to enjoy the beauty of each set of unique falls as we progressed to the top. It was so peaceful and serene. So very Black Forest. Just how I had imagined it would look when I was a child during bedtime storytime.

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Driving all the way back to the Black Forest to see the sites we had missed earlier in the week was definitely worth it.  It was a bit of a drive, but we were glad we didn’t miss the chance to visit it after all. It really was pretty cool.

By the time the end of the week arrived on Friday, we were a bit worn out from driving, so we hung out at the resort enjoying its amenities during the morning and early afternoon. Grace immersed herself in the relaxing waters of the resort’s beautiful pools at the spa center.

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We also did our laundry since we were just about out of clean clothes once again. Our carry-on luggage only held enough clothes for seven days. The days had flown by while we were in Bavaria. It was hard to believe the week was already drawing to its end.

Once we had recharged our batteries, ate some lunch, and restocked our suitcases with clean clothes, we still had quite a bit of the afternoon left. It was such a beautiful sunny day, so we impulsively decided to go back up the first chairlift we had taken to the highest point to get one last look at the Austrian and Swiss Alps.  It was a gorgeous day weather-wise, and the views were even better than before! We could see for miles and miles with barely any significant clouds obscuring our view.

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Paragliders were even out enjoying the clear, bright skies and the magnificent views from aloft. I’d like to do that!

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Three pictures say it all; the views we enjoyed did not disappoint!

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After our descent back down the mountain, we also couldn’t resist one last ride on the Alpine Coaster at nearby Heundle Activity park!

As much as we hated to leave this beautiful area of Germany, it was time for us to move on. Saturday morning, we gathered together all of our belongings and checked out of the resort. It had been a comfortable and convenient place to call our base while we meandered among the mountains and valleys of Bavaria. But leave, we must – we still had more destinations yet to explore!

So off we went.  We had a total of about 500 miles to travel that day. Half of it would be in the rental car; the other half would be on a train. From Oberstaufen, we drove west approximately 200 miles back to Strasbourg, France, to return the vehicle.

We arrived in Strasbourg with time to spare, returned the car, and leisurely strolled through the train station in search of the platform where we could catch the afternoon fast train to Paris. It was so handy to have the rental car agencies right next to the train station!

The train arrived on schedule, we climbed aboard and settled comfortably in our designated seats. We then proceeded to relax and enjoy a 2-hour (and 288-mile) journey across the French countryside to Paris. Luckily we had a decent-sized table between us, making it a perfect venue for eating the picnic lunch we had packed for the day. It also had convenient wifi connections and charging stations for our electronic devices. We were set!

We arrived in Paris at about 6 p.m., just in time for dinner! We checked in at our hostel a couple of stops on the local Metro from the train station. Le Village Hostel is in the Montmartre district, conveniently located at the base of the famous church, Sacre Coeur. I stayed here a few years ago with some friends so I was quite familiar with our surroundings. I knew where we were going and how to get there easily. Its a great hostel in a great location.

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Once we got our luggage stowed in our private room upstairs, we climbed the tourist-laden steps in front of the massive church, Sacre Coeur.

sacre coeurWe were headed to the heart of the Montmartre district of Paris. I thought Grace might really enjoy a meal in that artists’ historic haven since she is an artist herself. In the center of the square, nestled among artists creating one-of-a-kind portraits and whimsical caricatures of passers-by, we enjoyed our first taste of French cuisine and funky artistic culture.

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Montmartre and Sacre Coeur offer up spectacular views of Paris from the hill where they sit. The views put into perspective just how big Paris is when splayed out before you like this.

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The night was beginning to fall, so we strolled back down the multitude of steps to the bottom of the hill and returned to the hostel to relax. Just outside our room was an upstairs outdoor terrace perfect for what we were desiring – chillin’ for a while – after a long day of traveling from one country to the next!

We spent the next 3 days in Paris, exploring several iconic sites. Stories about those adventures will also be forthcoming as you might guess! Stay tuned! In the meantime, I hope you are also enjoying an adventure or two yourself!

If not, you should! Travel and adventures are so good for the soul, they help develop an open mind and foster creativity,  and, you can gain compassion and understanding of people from other places around the globe. It’s such a fantastic experience! Besides, it’s just good, plain fun!

 

Mannheim, Germany and the Charming ‘Petite France’ in Strasbourg

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring the fairytale-like village of  Bacharach. It was such a magical little village, and I was hesitant to leave.

bacharach to mannheimWe had a train to catch at 10:46, however, to get to our next destination, Mannheim. We leisurely made our way back to the Tourist Information Office on the main street from the park to retrieve our stowed luggage and then waited patiently at the train station platform for our train to arrive and whisk us away.

The journey lasted about 2 hours and traveled about 100 miles south. The train tracks followed the Rhine River for a while affording us some scenic views of several of the towns along the opposite banks.

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After the big turn in the river known as the Loreley, a large rock on the bank at a narrows of the Rhine River near Sankt Goarshausen, however, the train tracks turned away from the river and traveled through the non-descript countryside until we reached Mannheim.

We eventually disembarked the train at the busy train station in the center of Mannheim and began the process of trying to get our bearings. We needed to figure out how to exit the station on foot heading in the direction of the river. We knew that the hostel we would be spending the next couple of days was in a park-like setting nearby between the train station and the water. To gain some assistance, we approached a man who looked like he worked at the station. He didn’t speak very much English, however. Luckily, the older gentleman he had been talking to did, and he began providing us directions.

Before he finished, however, he seemed to be thinking to himself and then said, “If you don’t mind, I think it would be easier if I just walk with you and show you how to get you where you need to go. There is a lot of construction going on that makes it hard to explain.”

That was such a kind gesture. We were extremely grateful for the offer and accepted it. He was right; it was a somewhat convoluted path to try to follow, but eventually, at the end of a tunnel, we found ourselves outside again and at the entrance to the park we were looking for. He pointed in the direction of the hostel, describing which park pathway to follow to get us to it.  We thanked him profusely for his assistance and began making our way in the direction he proposed.

We had barely started walking, however, when a very kind person, this time, a middle-aged woman who was walking nearby, approached us and began talking to us. “I couldn’t help but hear the conversation you were having with that gentleman. The directions he provided to you will get you where you want to go, but it’s actually the long way round. I think I can show you a more direct route if you prefer.”

She proceeded to show us another path to follow instead, and we could see the hostel through the trees as she pointed out the way to take. After thanking her profusely, we started following the route she proposed instead.

It never ceases to amaze me how helpful total strangers can be. Often they seem to appear out of nowhere to assist a traveler.  I call them ‘guardian angels.’ As we made our way, we could see her walking through the park off in the distance but always in view. We surmised that she was keeping an eye on us to make sure we got where we needed to go. When we arrived at the hostel, we waved to her to say ‘Thank you,” and she happily waved back assured we had made it. We entered the bright and cheerful modern environment we would be enjoying for a couple of days and were quite pleased with what it had to offer us.

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Their accommodations were excellent, and after having had a few days in a row of continually being on-the-go, we were ready to kick back and relax, catch our breath and recharge our batteries.  They had very tidy facilities, and they also served delicious and affordable meals.  The staff on duty were extremely professional and helpful, as well. The rest of the day, we enjoyed walking in the park, watching little kids play in the playground, and just hung out.

The next day Grace still needed a bit of downtime to finish recharging her batteries, although Errin and I were raring to go and see what Mannheim was all about. While Grace hung out at the hostel on her own, Errin and I caught a bus into the central part of the city to have a look around. The helpful young women at the front desk of the hostel provided us with a city map, showed us what bus line to catch and where to catch it nearby, and happily brought our attention to the various sights we might enjoy seeing.  Armed with this great information, we set off.

We took the bus route that made a complete loop to serve as an overview of the city, allowing us to familiarize ourselves with the layout of the town. After completing the loop, we started from the beginning and began checking out each individual sight one at a time using the city bus like a ‘hop-on, hop-off’ tourist bus you see in most major cities.

Our first stop was the bustling and colorful marketplace in the city’s center at Marktplatz. It was full of all manner of delightful sights and smells!

There were wonderfully aromatic fruits and vegetables; yummy looking locally-made cheeses too!

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There was delicious looking fungi and all sorts of flora!

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Bordering the square was an impressive old Catholic church called Saint Sebastian, so we ventured inside to have a look around.  On the other side of the tower is the Old Town Hall, but we didn’t go inside that, however.

During WWII, air raids on Mannheim completely destroyed the city center. Mannheim was heavily damaged by aerial bombing raids conducted by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the U.S. Air Forces. The RAF razed the city center of Mannheim with night-time aerial bombing, which also killed thousands of civilians. As we sat in the market square, we tried to imagine how terrifying it must have been for the local inhabitants of this city while being so heavily bombarded and to watch their treasured buildings and way of life crumble before their eyes.

Mannheim is unusual among German cities in that its streets and avenues are laid out in a grid pattern, leading to its nickname “die Quadratestadt”- “The City of Squares.”  After visiting Market Square, we visited another one complete with a fountain containing some unusual and quirky characters.

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The eighteenth-century Mannheim Palace, which was the former home of the Prince-elector of the Palatinate, Frederick IV (and only surviving son of Louis IV), now houses the University of Mannheim.

 

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The city’s tourism slogan is “Leben. Im Quadrat.” – Translated as “Life. Squared.”

The civic symbol of Mannheim is “der Wasserturm,” a Romanesque water tower completed in 1886 that rises 200 feet above the highest point of the nearby art nouveau area called Friedrichsplatz.

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We wandered around this monument for a while and enjoyed its water features and carvings.

When I climbed the stairs of the tower and went around to the backside of the tower, the view that splayed out before me was surprising! Quite stunning!

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Needless to say, we spent quite a while enjoying its charms, cooling our feet and soaking up the beautiful scenery all around us! 

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Mannheim proved to be a lovely spot to relax and recharge our batteries.  The following day, Wednesday, July 31st, we were back on the road again, heading a little further south to a town called Karlsruhe. We were just about finished with our week-long tour of the Rhine River.

Karlsruhe turned out to be a total disaster! It was horrible! Without going into much detail, and getting into negativity, suffice it to say that the independent hostel we had booked called Guesthaus Kaiserpassage left A LOT to be desired!  I usually stick with the sanctioned and official YHA hostels. Still, this time, I was willing to try one that wasn’t because there weren’t any YHA hostels available in that particular area.

To make a long story quite short, the hostel was very poorly signed and extremely difficult to find. Besides, it was in a kind of a ‘seedy’ neighborhood. The rooms and facilities seemed ok inside and were acceptable upon the first inspection, but we soon realized that the ‘shared restroom and shower facilities’ weren’t just shared with other women as is the case in most hostels, but we had to share them with men as well! We didn’t like that at all!  We were not accustomed to having strange men walking into a bathroom or a shower area while we were naked and showering.

We also became aware that there weren’t other fellow travelers staying there with us. Instead, it appeared that the other guests were people who actually lived there temporarily. That makes for a whole different dynamic altogether.

We spent one night, and an uneasy one at that, and adjusted our schedule accordingly.  I strongly suggest that if you ever consider staying at that particular hostel – DON’T!!!!!!!! I actually contacted Hostelworld afterward and filed a formal complaint, which I have never done before, it was that bad!

Instead, we headed for the train station to catch a ride to our next destination, Strasbourg, where we had planned to rent a car from Enterprise Rent-a-Car for the following week while we visited Bavaria. Luckily when we arrived in Strasbourg, Enterprise was right next to the station, and they were able to provide us with a rental car a day ahead of schedule. We had to wait for a couple of hours for the car to be available. What a beautiful place to have to explore while we waited – Petite France in Strasbourg!

It is the historic quarter of the city of Strasbourg in eastern France. It is located at the western end of the Grande Île, which contains the historical center of the city. The River Ill splits up into several channels that cascade through an area that was home to the city’s tanners, millers, and fishermen in the Middle Ages. It is now one of Strasbourg’s main tourist attractions as part of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We started walking around this delightful quarter and found it quite intriguing and abundant in charming and colorful buildings.

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We hadn’t eaten for a while, so our first stop was at a quaint little outdoor cafe with great food and some delightful gelato to enjoy while we soaked up the scenery.

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It was a good thing that we had something to eat because pretty soon, the shop windows were tempting us with all manner of scrumptious treats!  Oh my goodness, it makes my mouth water just looking at them here. Imagine how I actually had to wipe drool out of the corner of my mouth when I could smell those freshly baked goodies!

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We walked along the peaceful canals in the warm sunshine, taking in all the sights and smells of this lovely little corner of heaven-on-earth until we found a sweet little shady spot under a weeping willow to quietly rest under as our explorations were coming to an end.

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IMG_9823IMG_9841As we worked our way back to the train station, we continued to encounter all manner of fun sights like tourist trains, children’s carousels, and all manner of creative pieces of art in shop windows and on the sides of buildings.

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We eventually made it back to the beautiful glass structure of the Strasbourg train station, got our rental car and were soon on our way later that afternoon to the town of Singen in southern Germany.

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We had made reservations online with another hostel in Singen called Art & Style, and unlike our last hostel, we were quite pleased with what we found.

It was a colorful, artful, welcoming, and genuinely warm and inviting and an absolutely delightful experience.

IMG_9900There was funky and quirky art murals on the walls, and the staff was so welcoming and friendly. The breakfast in the morning was outstanding, and the service remarkable. There were a lot of families and young people staying at this vibrant location, and unlike the previous place, I highly recommend you stay at this quirky and fun hostel. It’s an experience in its own right!

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We finished off the day with dinner at a local Mexican Restaurant called Bandoleros. We were quite happy with the decision we had made earlier in the morning to change our plans. We were content that we had trusted our instincts and found something more suitable and to our liking.

The following week, as I mentioned before, we began exploring Bavaria. Stay tuned for those adventures! There will be many more posts to follow with all the details of that lovely land!  Until then…