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Thursday, October 29, 2015

Europe, Part 3 · Strasbourg and Colmar

· WARNING · If you aren't particularly fond of half-timbered houses, this is your notice that you'll get bored quickly.  For all the rest of you- these towns are a must-see! ;-)

(Parts 1 and 2 here!)

Our second area to stay and explore was the Alsace region of France- right over the border from Germany.  Actually, both sides of our family have strong ties to the area, but that wasn't the reason to add it to the itinerary... these towns were really just too cute to pass up. ;-)

Our first day in the area took us from Traben-Trarbach down to Strasbourg.  The scenery was lovely along the way, although I will confess that I spent part of the ride attempting to shake off the last lingerings of jet lag. ;-)  Our goal was to make it in time for the church service at the Cathedral and when we pulled into the center of town as the clock was striking the hour, I'll admit that I considered it a hopeless cause.  However, it's a jolly good thing that the bells ring for 10 minutes, as that gave us just enough time to find an underground parking garage, pick a spot, grab a few things from the car, and scurry into the cathedral!  Whew!

The Cathedral is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary this year!  We were able to take photos just after the service, and I managed to grab a few slightly blurry pics in the darkness before the security guards hustled everyone out. ;-)  While I was taking photos, a couple came up to talk to me and started talking fluent French- my German is non-existent, but I think my French is even worse... I quickly told them I only spoke English at which point a wave of relief washed over their faces, "Oh good!  We're Canadian!".  I think we were all glad to converse in our natural language!

The Cathedral has the distinction of having been the tallest building in the world for over 200 years!!

We were so fortunate that our itinerary coincided with the one day a month that every museum in Strasbourg is free!  We took advantage of the moment and climbed up to the top of the cathedral.  I love the opportunity it provides to see the architecture up close and to marvel at all the detail.

And there were stunning views from the top!  Oh, and pardon my hilariously bad attempt at a panorama shot...  I'm used to my mom developing physical photos and arranging them in a scrapbook- somehow I didn't realize how very much more difficult it would be to do digitally!

I attempted to get a shot of the whole cathedral, but.... it's tall.  And before I had a chance to try again, an older gentleman wondered if I didn't want to have my picture taken?  Well, not particularly, but.... whatever.  Apparently the spire was too tall for him, too. ;-)  And yeah, I have no idea why I'm standing crooked.  But hey! It's actual proof I was in Europe! ;-)

The rest of the town was chock full of charming old buildings!  It was so enjoyable to just wander around and revel in the atmosphere and the beautiful weather.

We had our typical bread-and-cheese lunch in the town square- and even had prime seats to watch the swing dancing group that came by!

My request for the day was to stop at one of the many cute little cafes for a coffee that afternoon.  While we were there, I wanted to get a picture with Gretel, and it was such a comedy of errors that I had to save all the failed attempts just for the memories. ;-)  

Here we have Exhibit A- a lovely photo.  Except for the fact that the subjects are completely out of focus.
Exhibit B- Second attempt.  Looks suspiciously like everyone thought Dad was going to be in the photo, except the photographer, so only his arm remains in shot.  As well as the whole shot being crooked.
Exhibit C- Overall an acceptable shot, except the composition leaves a little to be desired....

.... And here we go!  4th time's the charm!  Worth the wait though, I think. ;-)

Another museum stop that we made was the Palais Rohan.  No, nothing to do with Tolkien, however it was a gorgeous museum and well worth the time!!

The main level had many restored rooms- this one was my favorite.  Seems like the ideal setting for a ball, don't you think?!

Aaand, I do love Empire style furniture as well.... ;-)

The Ill River

Our final destination for the day and our home for the next few days was Colmar, France- actually you can see our building on the far left of this photo- the top floor and a half were ours! :-)

Staying right in the center of town worked out wonderfully.  We could spend the time just leisurely wandering the town, discovering all the winding roads and enjoying the non-touristy times.  We could see a butcher, baker, and grocer right from our window, too!

The canals run throughout town....

And half-timbered houses are almost a requirement!

Funny little crooked roof!  And.... pastries!

This town just oozes charm!

We could see the cathedral from our window and we loved how it even has a stork nest!  We're huge Playmobil fans, and this whole town looked like it could be straight out of their catalog- even down to stork nests. ;-)

Hearing church bells throughout the day was one of my favorite aspects of the trip- we were fortunate to have nearby bells almost every place we stayed.  I loved it! :-)

A few of the buildings in town had lovely tile roofs.

Ready for an even worse panorama shot?  Heehee... ;-)  I'm sure there is a program out there somewhere that makes this easier, but it's just not that high on the list of things to do! ;-)

This is the view from our window!  Charming!

Well, there we go for our third installment!  My life has been craaaaazy since getting back from this trip, so I wasn't able to compile all these posts ahead of time like I normally do so that I could have them all scheduled and auto-published like usual.  Ah well, that's life! :-)  I'd love to get the rest of these posts up soon- next is Switzerland, and let me tell you.... it was like a fairytale!!

Monday, October 19, 2015

· Pattern Pre-Sale! ·

For those who don't already follow me on instagram, you'll want to head on over and check out my pattern "pre-sale" going on right now!  I'm offering my latest batch of vintage patterns at a discount, so be sure to get them before they head to the shop!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Europe, Part 2 · Aachen and Trier

(For part one, visit this post!)  As I mentioned in my previous post, in order to have more cohesive posting, I saved our first day's travel to share in part 2. :-)  So here we go- days 1 and 3!

Our flight into Frankfurt went smoothly and we arrived bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and rearing to go after a refreshing night of 2 hrs of sleep!  OK, not quite... but we were eager to get out and explore!  Previous experience has taught us to push through the first day with as little napping as we can get away with, so we put just 1 item on our itinerary for the day: Aachen Cathedral.

It was a 2-3 hr drive to Aachen and our path took us through many scenic vistas and past lots of tempting castles.... Oh for all the time in the world to stop at every place that catches your interest!

We were hoping to make it to the cathedral in time for their once-daily English tour, but finding a parking place meant that we were rushing with just minutes to spare in order to catch the tour!  As it turned out, we *just* barely made it, but I'm so thankful we did!  Admission to the cathedral is free, but that means that they aren't spending any money on placquards or informational literature.... so if we had been just a few minutes later we really wouldn't know anything at all about what we were looking at!

Charlemagne lived in Aachen in the late 700s and started building this cathedral in 796.  The exterior is quite a conglomeration of different styles as it's been added on to over the years.  The central, original portion is octogonally shaped and decorated with brilliant mosaics- a different theme for each section!

The mosaics are not original; in the late 1800s, it was deemed appropriate to decorate the cathedral "as a Byzantine cathedral would have been decorated".  While I certainly commend them for their artistry and taste (it was one of the selling points to include it in our itinerary!), I must say that it seems a mite presumptuous to think that 1,000 years later, we could have more insight into popular aesthetic than Charlemagne himself.... ;-)

Charlemagne's throne still stands in its original place- on the second floor, looking out over the center.  The throne was the place of coronation for over 30 German kings throughout the centuries.  Kind of surprisingly unpretentious, don't you think??  To make up for that- it was made from stones from Jerusalem. ;-)

The master tiler had a "signature" that he would always include in his mosaics- a tiny mouse.  Can you spot it?

The center of the cathedral has an elaborately gold-tiled ceiling and an original immense brass chandelier weighing... I-forget-how-many tons. 

 Aachen was Charlemagne's favorite church, and his remains are housed here.  This elaborate coffin was made a few hundred years after his death, when The embellishment on the exterior depicts German kings and emperors along the sides, and considering it is being displayed prominently in a church is rather sacrilegious, when you come right down to it!

The nave of the church was added on in the medieval period and all the walls were decorated with gorgeous paintings.  Unfortunately, in 1944, Aachen suffered bombing and the tremors destroyed all of the stained glass in the nave.  The cathedral was open to the elements for several years and in that time, irreparable damage was done to the painting.

It still remains in some portions, but only as a reminder of its former glory. :-( 
The stained glass was replaced in the 50s, but unfortunately in the modern style. :-/  I really, really don't care for that style of stained glass in the slightest!

The massive iron doors in the front of the cathedral are original, and probably only survive because no one through the millenia was able to easily cart off their 2 tons of weight each. ;-)

Our tour was thoroughly interesting and helped banish all thoughts of jet lag from our minds!  Dad had to stop by a local shop to get our cell phone ready for use in Europe, so the rest of us took the opportunity to try out a bakery. :-)

 (see- they don't really look all that jet-lagged, do they?? ;-))

Our 3rd day was spent in Trier, Germany.  Before planning our trip, I was unaware that Trier was actually one of the main capitals of the Roman Empire!  I do love Roman stuff, so we had to make the trip! :-)

There are quite a few reminders of the former Roman grandeur which, considering they are over 2,000 years old, is just incredible!

Unfortunately, there was also a huge fashion show going on that day right in the middle of town, so that effectively destroyed any hope of getting photos of the charming architecture.... you can see the crowds starting to assemble and the cat walk at the far end of the street here!

Our first stop was Porta Nigra- the last remaining of the Roman city gates.  It survives in remarkably preserved condition considering it has been in almost constant use.  From hermit's residence to church to near destruction by Napoleon, it's seen quite a lot of refurbishment and redecorating! 

This is part of the medieval addition when it was turned into a church.  You can make out the addition on the left of the picture above- the original gate was symmetrical.

The interior has been divided into 3 floors, and the stone has been carved decoratively in most places.

And beautiful views from the top floor!

Our day in Trier was a bit dreary, but thankfully we missed any rain so it was an enjoyable day for site-seeing after all. :-)

Next up: the Cathedral of Trier! (also, this is the church visible in the above photo) This place was so, so massive- I had the hardest time getting it (mostly) all in a picture!

The Rococo stucco-work in the front dome was stunning!

Next stop- Constantine's Basilica.  Again- immense.  The basilica was built in the early 300s and despite some remodeling over the centuries, is now back to its (semi)original state.  I think it's amusing how modern the design looks!  Coupled with the fact that it certainly doesn't look like it's 1700 years old...

.... In contrast to that, the Roman baths definitely *do* look their age! ;-)

Unfortunately, there was major restoration/cleaning work going on at the time, hence the lack of pictures.  Giant scaffolds and tarps really do make it difficult to get the "feel". ;-)  One feature that was quite fun about these baths is that the underground network for steam, etc. still survives and is open for exploring!  Fun!

Our last stop of the day was the Roman Amphitheater.  The amphitheater has been through a lot over the years... stone seating disassembled for building houses, the whole thing filled in as a garbage dump, etc!  I do wonder what prompts you to fill a ROMAN RUIN with garbage... but then again, I certainly can't boast any attraction older than 200 years in my area so I have a much different perspective. ;-)

The underground network still survives and is tour-able via the stairway holes visible.  The glass tiles in the surface of the amphitheater floor are modern additions to provide light to the network.  Also, the rooms and passageways accessible through the doors in the walls are also restored for exploration!

Thanks for visiting!  I hope to be back with the next installation soon... we're on to Alsace, France next!

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