Strasbourg snow & Swiss cheese

While my parents were here, we decided to do a little tour. Last year we went to Italy, so I figured we should do something in the other direction – and since we had such a lovely time in Strasbourg last time, I thought it would be nice to go there with them. Unfortunately, it was a bit chilly and snowy! Somehow we managed to arrive over the few days that it wasn’t sunny. But that didn’t stop us, we still enjoyed a fantastic few days.

The main sight is of course the cathedral, which was just as beautiful as the first time we saw it. We also took the same little train trip, as well as a boat tour around the canals. It snowed while we were on the boat, and then something happened to the motor so they had to take us back early. We went to re-book the trip, but it was taking such a long time that we got reimbursed instead. Free boat trip! I also dragged my dad to my favorite game store, where I bought a discounted game that was some kind of unholy union between steampunk and Risk  – it was too complicated for us to figure out (in French)!

That day was also my mom’s birthday, so we booked a nice dinner at the Kammerzell House restaurant. You think sometimes these kinds of famous places are charging for more of a touristy experience, but actually the food was very good, with a great wine list, and the servers were really attentive. It was lovely.

On our second day, we toured the zoological museum, which was small but really interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many weird taxidermied animals in one place. There were probably a thousand birds, many of them misshapen and hilarious. Easily a highlight of the trip!

On the drive home, we followed the Alsatian wine route part of the way, stopping in the medieval village Riquewihr for lunch. This was probably the most adorable little place I’ve ever seen, with ancient cobblestone streets winding around rows of colorful sloping houses. We had lunch, ironically, at a Swiss-style restaurant. But it was nice.

Back at home, I took my mom and the kids to the Cailler chocolate factory. They had been asking for weeks to visit, and the week after Easter seemed like a good time (and there were plenty of chocolate sales to be had). We also stuffed ourselves with cheese in nearby Gruyères, where my mom had raclette for the first time – even though I had made her a homemade cheese fondue the night before and we had sworn off cheese for eternity.

Too soon it was time for my parents to head home. I’m sure they’ll be back again soon!

Fête de Pâques: Flowers, Flowers, Flowers, Ewok

Easter was a quiet time this year, but still full of fun. First of all, I traded in BigB for my parents, who have come to visit while he is back in Canada. They’re here for two weeks while the kids are off school for the holidays.

The weather has been perfect – sunny and beautiful, and all the flowers are in bloom. We’ve enjoyed some lovely walks through Nyon and Geneva, checking out the old town, playing chess in the park, and looking at all the holiday displays.

For Easter, the Bunny brought us a nice selection of gummies hidden around the house, plus a bunch of Star Wars toys – including a hilarious Millennium Falcon ship-car hybrid and an Ewok that makes Ewok sounds when you squeeze it. He was kind of enough to bring me some Cognac-filled chocolate eggs, obviously knowing what I needed to get through the holiday.

Later, we went to Morges for a local tulip festival. Being from Ottawa, which is renown for its own tulip festival, I wasn’t sure what to expect – but, sorry Ottawa, the Morges festival was quite good! It might be a bit smaller, but there were so many many varieties of flowers, including some heritage ones. I spent most of my time taking photos of the odd flowers out – the one weird red one growing in a field of yellow, for example. And then we had to find flowers from each of our birthday years.

Enjoy the gratuitous flower gallery and happy (belated) Easter!

Lovely Leuven – catching up

We are back online after a little break. Time to catch up on some recent adventures!

The best thing about living in Central Europe is being able to visit nearby cities easily by car. So at New Year’s, we decided to take a quick weekend trip to see our friends in Leuven – one family lives there now and another was visiting from Indonesia for the holidays, a perfect excuse to go!

We woke up (very) early on New Year’s Day and hit the road. Personally, I was excited to see the sights as we drove up through France, Luxembourg and into Belgium. As we set off, up and over the Jura mountains, the sky started to lighten and we caught glimpses of beautiful green valleys and misty fields. Then the fog rolled in. And in, and in… It was so foggy that we could only see a few meters ahead of us on the road. And it stayed with us, as we drove up through France, Luxembourg and into Belgium. We saw no sights. At one point, we decided to stop for lunch and the only thing we could find – literally – was a McDonalds. Thank goodness for those glowing golden arches. We couldn’t even see far enough off the road to find a gas station when we needed one.

The sun appeared for just this one moment on the drive up!
The sun appeared for just this one moment on the drive up!

But we made it to Leuven safely with a joyous reunion (and well-deserved beer) at the hotel. That night, we grabbed some Italian food with our pile of extremely tired kids and planned our city touring for the following day.

Top of the Belgium bucket list was beer. The guys were keen to try all the Trappist beers that Leuven had on offer and they made a little dent in them – unfortunately, the brewery that they tried to visit only gave tours to 8 or more people, so they had to settle on simply drinking all the beer in the bar instead of on the tour. I think that was an acceptable compromise. The rest of us wandered the city, checking out the remnants of New Years parties and explaining to the kids every five seconds why there was so much confetti and empty bottles on the street. But we topped it off with some gourmet hamburgers, so all was forgiven.

We also found a delicious chocolaterie with amazing handmade truffles. The owner let the kids dip their fingers into the chocolate fountain – I’m really not sure how sanitary that was, but the kids were thrilled. Then we bought some pies and books in the market, and gave ourselves a walking tour of the amazing city architecture.

That night was dinner with the whole gang – and more joyous reunions took place! The kids went wild while we tried our best to have some adult conversation. And J was lucky to have a sleepover with her bestie that night. Note to self: don’t ask the kids to take the photos of you and your friends because they will all be out of focus.

The next day we said our goodbyes and headed back on the road for another foggy drive home. We decided to take the long way around the Jura, heading up through Geneva instead of over the mountains – good choice, since we could now see the snow that had fallen over the weekend and blocked our way. Phew!

Looking forward to our next trip!