Since meeting D I’ve learned a lot about France and the French. Understandable. The best part of this learning is that I also get to visit the towns, cities, departments, and regions. Of specific interest to me are the following two regions of France: Alsace and Franche-Comté. (Of course, the foods of both regions interest me greatly. More to follow in a later post.)
But let me start at the beginning…
D and I left Coustellet on Sunday afternoon last week. We headed north, passing through Lyon, on our way to Nuremberg. Yeah, Lyon, the capital of rain. (Sorry to my lyonnais friends but it rained non-stop from Lyon all the way north. No, it’s not fair that I blame Lyon.) Our drive took us through Franche-Comté of course, where D was born and raised.
Les comtois are very proud and, dare I say it, stubborn people. The region is as beautiful as the people are stubborn. (And it’s a very beautiful region!) Franche-Comté is lush and green with lots of dewy pastures and cool lakes.
Imagine my surprise when I found the exact same thing across the border in Germany. Now, I don’t know why I was surprised; I just was. I guess I only thought about Germany in terms of the cities and not the rural areas. Our itinerary had us jetting along the autobahn at break-neck speeds. (D doesn’t know this but there were times when my toes were pressed hard into the floorboard while he was content at ratcheting the speed up, up, UP…from 135 km/h to 163 km/h to *gasp* 197 km/h. Oh, it didn’t end there; ‘we’ hit the 205 km/h mark more than once.)
The autobahn snakes its way through Germany hitting large cities but, for the most part, winding through the countryside. Green was the word that came to mind. Trying to capture photos of the countryside at 190+ km/h was difficult but here is a small sample.
In terms of touring cities, I really only saw Nuremberg. Its city centre was bustling with activity, both from locals and from tourists. I spent the better part of a day in the old city. Lucky me, I was also there for market day!
We left Nuremberg and headed north-west for Hannover. Now, the hotel room in Hannover was something to behold. If you like the colour pink then this is the room for you!
And if the walls and curtains were too much for our eyes, we could always look down for something more peaceful and calming.
From Hannover, we hit the autobahn again — yes, more toe-scrunching — and headed south to Strasbourg. (I was happy to cross the border into France because the French are reasonable enough to place a speed limit on their highways!)
Strasbourg is another of my favourite French cities. D and I have visited Strasbourg a few times over the past three years and I love every visit. Strasbourg has a youthful vibe due, in large part, to the Université de Strasbourg. The city offers a lot in terms of history, as you can imagine, and boasts a large number of very good restaurants! (Stay tuned for Friday’s post for another resto review!)
We lucked out last night with our hotel as well. D had booked us a room at Hotel de la Cathédrale. The hotel is in the same place as the cathedral. When we arrived at the reception desk we were 1) warmly received and 2) told that we were being upgraded to a mini suite. Our room, in fact, wasn’t in the hotel itself. Rather, our room was located at the top floor of la résidence cathédrale.
We had an amazing view of the cathédrale!
We left Strasbourg the following afternoon and headed south to Montbéliard. We stayed at the Campanile in Sochaux and easily found the hotel as D knows the area very well. We checked in and decided to have dinner at the hotel. As the hotel doesn’t have indoor/underground parking, our lovely (and thankfully) rented Citroën C5 was parked outside. It was a lovely car…that now has almost 20 dents in it courtesy of what I now call the Holy Grêle.
D was working away at the desk and I was sitting on the bed reading when I clued in to a strange sound outside. I listened and listened but couldn’t place the sound. I asked D, “what’s that noise?” Without looking out the window — in fact, I don’t think he even moved his head — he said, “oh, it’s probably just a flag and the flagpole, y’know, with the wind.” I thought about that for a few seconds all the while listening to the strange metal-against-metal sound. A few seconds later the sound got louder. D turned and looked at me and I said, “that ain’t no flagpole!” We wend to the window and it was then that we saw the golf ball-sized hail hurtling from the sky. Cars and people were being pelted. We watched as a really huge chunk of ice ripped the side mirror off a van. This went on for about 15 mins! Later, as we walked to the hotel’s restaurant, we checked out the cars in the parking lot. Every single car had dents and impacts; no car was spared. A few cars had the windshields blown out. (We initially were to take le papy‘s C3 but D decided instead to rent a car. He also decided to take full insurance. It’s a good thing he did because the car looks as though Tiger Woods used it as a target.)
D had a few meetings the next morning in Montbéliard leaving me to wander the town, to shop, and to find lunch. I was successful on all three accounts and when we finally met up in the early afternoon we were both exhausted but ready to leave town.
From Montbéliard we headed west to Sury-aux-Bois. D had a meeting in Nogent-sur-Vernisson, the last meeting of our road trip, so after a quick stop in Issan we hit the highway again. Now, we had booked our hotel while we were in Strasbourg and we had selected a château in the middle of nowhere. It was a bright idea at the time but when we were looking for the hotel at 11:30 pm in the pitch dark with no street lights and very limited information we figured we might end up sleeping in our C5. Luckily, D had the number for the hotel and we did eventually find our way. And the reward was so lovely.
We stayed at Château de Chicamour which is located about halfway between Orléans and Montargis. We were warmly received — once we got there, of course — and we found our room to be quite comfortable. Breakfast the next morning was also a treat: warm croissants and baguette, freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade jam, and coffee. As D was relatively free that morning, we took a stroll through the grounds of the château.
After D’s meeting on Friday afternoon, we hit the road again, this time due south. We encountered traffic and more rain in Lyon (see?!) but made it back to Coustellet to see if les Bleus could pull out a win. (They didn’t.)