Last meal: 10e bakery deliciousness.
Drink of choice: Martini Rosso.
Song in my head:
though a lolmention must go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ntSBKPkk4m4
Ok, so still not up-to-date, but I’M WORKING ON IT, OK?!
We arrived in Dijon just as the sun went down, so it was a dark walk to our hotel of reasonably unknown location, but we found it ok. As we were leaving the train station, one of the clocks was in fast forward, and we received some confused glares as we filmed each other doing various hilarious things underneath, until it reached the real time. The hotel itself was rather nice, and we hired bikes immediately then headed out for a run. Jus came too and we ran at a really good pace! One girl even yelled out to us on the street, Tour-de-France style. Afterwards, we went for a dinner at a specifically salmon restaurant (don’t even get me started, Jus’ family) where Jus experienced a salmon tartar!
The next few days in Dijon passed in somewhat of a nice blur, where in amongst it we geezed at some nice gardens, the Ducal Palace and Musée de Beaux Arts (it was REALLY good, recommended for YOU!), bought assorted mustards, sent some post to Venice, and Jus’ wisdom teeth had been causing pain and sleep disruption so I’d organised an appointment with a local dentist (the phone conversation to do this was terrifying, but it turned out that I can spell in french so yay)!
Possibly THE best dentist ever, it went surprisingly well. It was conducted mostly in french with only some tiny bits in english (I’d like to think that I held up quite well, but really all the technical words were the same in both languages, e.g. inflammation), there was no pain at this point but an xray was taken and the diagnosis of gotta-get-em-out-asap-boyo delivered. AND it was so CHEAP! Including the prescription, all up less than €50! Oh GOODNESS it was exciting!!
Next stop on the agenda was Strasbourg, which just seemed so incredibly German (read: efficient) after almost two months in France (read: no one does their job properly). We were picked up from the station by our host, who lived upstairs from our accommodation on the outskirts of the city. It was really cold so we just hung around in the apartment, except for ducking out for half an hour to arrange some dinner.
The next morning we were up nice and early to go to an open session at The European Court of Human Rights. We sat in the dark press room with probably 15 other people, looking up at the projected courtroom and earphones with different channels as different on-the-spot translations into different languages! Cramazing. Not that I really know though, since I fell asleep about half an hour in (it was dark and warm, gimme a break!), but Jus said it was good.
Afterwards we made our way into Strasbourg centre and walked around a bit along the canals and such. Jus got very excited because there are just so many bikes there (read: German) so of course we had to go into at least one bike shop where the guy was very talkative in english (read: he was probably German). Eventually walked around to the Cathédral Saint Jean, a famous Strasbourgian landmark (which features in the latest Sherlock Holmes, if you care to know) and the tallest building of its time. It also contains THE BEST church organ I have ever seen. Like a colourful beehive clinging onto the upper foundations.
More walking took us to a wonderful square featuring bookshops, a Koen-doppelganger (oh, excuse my cunning use of German there) busking enthusiastically with a violin (earned €2 merely for his appearance), bretzels (i don’t know why, but they make the ‘p’ a ‘b’), and a simply splendid stall full of old-style French travel posters which we were tempted to buy but would’ve had no way to transport. That evening, we went for a cold run along the nearest canal, which had a lovely but ill-lit path and fellow friendly runners (I’ve never heard so many bonsoirs)!
The next day, we’d booked a car. This was our last chance to have a car and frankly we were sick to death of the bureaucracy of the whole thing, so we weren’t even expecting to get one in the end.
But then we did! Woah! And it was, for some reason, a special weekend so we got a really amazing deal! I kept asking if they were sure when they told us the price, gave us the keys, let us leave with the keys, etc. We were in a state of shock when we got outside, slightly delirious. We quickly looked for a bookshop to find some maps, which we found (zomg I want to work there!) and got back to the parking lot asap to see her.
My, she was beautiful. A red Citroën C3.
Excitement. Photos. Love.
When we actually managed to get in, Jus was first driver and used the 6 floors of car park as practise for the handling of a left-side-driver right-side-of-the-road experience. By the bottom level, he had jaw ache. He was very good and natural on the road though, despite my confused navigation (darn you poorly signed French roads!), but in the end we got onto the correct road just as it was getting dark so there were lovely views of misty fields and trees. Overtaking was interesting, as were motorway exits (e.g. swerving across 2 lanes to follow my instructions). We pulled over some vineyards for Jus to pee, and it was all misty and cold and wonderful. By 7 though, we made it to our destination: a small BnB on the Route de Vin d’Alsace near Colmar, situated right across the road from a river!
For dinner, we drove to a place we’d noticed on the way in and had joked about going to. Its name: Buffalo Grill. Need I say more?
First thing the next morning, to work off the ribs and steak and chippies, we went for a run along the river while it was still dark! So good. Freaking cold, but it was quite fun, especially getting lost in a children’s hospital carpark and a lady getting cranky at us for it. Breakfast was provided: basically brioche and assorted local jams. So much for working off last night. Yay! Jus wants me to mention the incredible tap in the bathroom which looked like the water ran straight from a spring or something? Very smooth water flow anyway. It was exciting to repack the car: directly from our room instead of having to traipse around with our packs to a train/bus station. Petit Michel, the remote control car, was specifically placed in the rear window.
A few times during the day, we turned off of our mapped route and onto the beaten track. The first was about 5kms out of town, where we turned into a wet autumnal foresty area coming out of the valley. We pulled over and reveled in the excitement of driving and ‘being in the wilderness,’ and we even found a sodden kids book which Jus wouldn’t let me keep. Further along the Route de Vin, we got lost a few times, but finally found ourselves driving through a misty mountainous woodland with red leaves and green moss, and even altitude signs (not that we couldn’t tell from the intense cold)! On the way down the other side, we saw a little wood cabin absolutely COVERED in moss, and we stopped off at a Marché U for lunch. Chocolate milk poppers featured.
Eventually we, rather messily and ravenously, got to the Rhine and crossed into Germany. Both of us also desperately needed the bathroom (darn you, chocolate milk poppers!), heightened by the fear of being in a country where we couldn’t even fudge our way through with the language! We pulled into a service station and started walking into it TWICE, both times chickening out of asking for bathrooms. With bladder-related explosions pending, we continued driving and found a lovely (read: WELL-LOCATED) campsite which was generally wonderful and had clean bathrooms that we could access! No one was there to praise/pay, so we ate lunch in the car in the parking lot.
The site was right on the edge of the Black Forest, so of course we drove in there, hoping to get to the other side. It was absolutely amazing. We had to pull over after about 4kms because there was an incredibly beautiful creek waterfall, so we took heaps of photos, then proceeded up further until snow was on the road, which point we pulled over again to get out for a wander. After a bit, snow actually began to fall and it was simply wonderful and perfect. Our jackets didn’t even get wet as the snowflakes began to settle. Justin through a snowball at me, which landed in my jacket pocket. Cruel boy. Stayed around for a bit, but turned around because of the cold and mist. Took a turn and followed another mountain road, where we passed by an enormous mansion rehab centre overlooking a town. We avoided a dirt road, but continued along a wine route (we’re assuming – we couldn’t read anything but there were vineyards everywhere, including a 100% solar-powered one!) until Freiburg.
When we arrived, we realised that we had no idea where in Freiburg we were actually going, so we sat in a hardware store carpark for about 15 minutes while we tried to contact our hosts on my poor excuse for a phone. Started driving again for no particular reason and ended up calling on Jus’ phone, getting through and directions (all my written directions from the vocal ones were so misspelled and confused!) and we found ourselves within 100m of the place, and after a quick call, got a park on the street itself.
Met our awesome hosts and were shown the apartment, “typical german, but a bit luxury,” which had an enormous spa-bath, was two storeys and four bedrooms, and we had our own studio complete with sloping roof and deck. Also lots of windows through which we could actually see the Black Forest! Went back to the car to unpack and park slightly closer to the apartment = Jus’ first “car accident” – a typical French occurrence where he bumped our back with the car behind’s front. Very hilarious/French/exciting/terrifying, and lots of checking our car for scratches. It was completely fine. Later on though, our host spoke to us about how bad people who hit-and-run are. Awkward.
Went out to dinner in downtown Freiburg after drinks in a big market hall (we all had cocktails, but because Jus and I can’t read, ours were just so ridiculously over-the-top feminine). An interesting feature of Freiburg are the open drains with beautiful clear water, which were the old sewers – very efficient/German! Dinner in a brewery (!) of traditional German food: wild boar (Jus) and schnitzel (look, I wanted to see how it compared with the crap they try to serve at pubs these days. Germany wins), served with absolute buckets of beer.
Afterwards we went to drinks at an old student bar featuring super-old concert posters and massive speakers (playing old-school favourites like AC/DC etc.), a tenor saxophone glued to the wall, 100 varieties of scotch available, a basketball sized glob of candle, and a “metre of beer” – 1m pallets specially designed to carry however many cups of beer one can fit into 1m! I tried some absinthe (first-time!) which was so interesting to prepare, and quite bizarre. We walked around a bit, saw the big cathedral in darkness, some guys asked Jus for directions (thankfully we were still with our hosts, because my first thought was that they were trying to rob us!), and the absinthe had NO EFFECT (I only found out later that its effects aren’t supposed to be felt for ~2 hours! What a waste)! So we had shots of Chartreuse back at the apartment, because they hadn’t tried it before.
Definitely no run the next morning (still a bit drunk?) but we were prepared a nice small breakfast apéritif (piece of toast with assorted unknowns on it) with a ‘German’ cure for hangovers (“carbohydrate” [assuming yeast or something] with lemon juice and mineral water. Whatever, we felt placebo-better anyway). Headed back downtown for coffee and “authentic French croissants” in a small standing café, where we shared a table with two old men who kindly said “Auf Wiedersehen” as they left. Proceeded to the markets in the cathedral square where we bought Freiburg cheesecake, cheesey bread, cheese (I’m sensing a pattern?), olives and tomatoes. When returning to the apartment, there was a chain of rubber duckies floating in an open drain!
Getting out of Freiburg was a bit of a mixup, but eventually we were on the road back to Strasbourg via the Black Forest north of Freiburg. Some adjectives: hilly, rainy, woody, vallagey, misty, valley-ey, less dense. Many more praising adjectives are also available. I even drove for a little bit after a massive tanty.
A bit sad to cross back into France, but relieved to understand road signs again! Filled the tank within Strasbourg city limits – we had only used ~25L in the whole trip (~400km)! [Jus wanted me to include these stats.] The petrol station was crazy busy and we were so confused by the whole diesel thing, but we got there in the end. However, Strasbourg’s extensive collection of one-way streets and no-through roads made us late to the car dropoff (OMG €900 INSURANCE TAKEN?!) but the counter was due to be closed anyway so we left the keys in the box in the station. It was sad to leave her there, all alone, we’d shared so many memories, but YAY – we finally beat the hire car companies – they said we couldn’t do it but we did! Suck on that … hire car companies … And we didn’t end up paying any extra, for the late dropoff or any scratches found on the rear bumper!!
We hung out at the train station until we were due to depart, eating sundried tomatoes and olives and cheesy bread on the grass outside surrounded by filled bike stands. Saw a protest/demonstration about the Congo. You know, the regular stuff.
Absolutely buggered by the time we’d walked from the train station in Metz to our hotel on the other side of the main part of the city (though right on the Moselle river with a view to the cathedral)! Ended up having possibly the WORST dinner of the trip at the hotel restaurant, though we had a small scoff of cheesecake back in the room after my run so it was all better then.
The next day, Sunday, we essentially just walked around, looking at the main sights and finding shops that we wanted to go into but were closed. And Jus had fun playing with Petit Michel on the quay. And we somehow ate two courses of lunch each, consisting merely of crêpes. It had started snowing the previous night, so there was a thickening layer of snow on everything which was fun and exciting, with many snowfights ensuing. Everything was beginning to seem monochrome, except the copper-green roof of the cathedral.
We went for a late-afternoon run along the river, which ended up last about two hours because we became so enamoured with the falling snow in the half-light of dusk on the river and a lake-side park. Got home and rushed out to get to the cinema where we’d hoped to see J. Edgar (which was in English with French subtitles), but ended up seeing Sherlock Holmes instead (French dubbed. Obviously no English subtitles. I sense a hole in this plan). Still don’t really know what happened in that movie.
The next day was MY BIRTHDAY which started very nicely with a call from my sister (and later to my mum) and the discovery of the still-falling snow! We went for a very pou-sh breakfast at a fancy-nancy patisserie just off of the cathedral square where the coffee was actually good (I tried a café russe which tasted just a like a latté but Jus insists that there must’ve been vodka in it or something) and we sampled croissants and a variety of tarts (and flans! Oh Oribia – you are too naughty. The punniness!!) We walked through the town a bit more, though much was closed again. Found a delightful public garden with a bizarre assortment of foliage (palm trees covered in snow!) and complete with schoolchildren having a snowfight (we were thinking of taking them on, but we didn’t want to try and take on the bureaucracy of the French judicial system too).
I spent my birth moment (yeah I know it’s weird to say that) in an organic food shop, just so you know what an enviro I am. Afterwards, headed across the street where I purchased some new running shoes at Justin’s insistence. They’re flashy and bright green. I should think of a name for myself when I use them. Tried them out that night (yes, Justin made me go on a run ON MY BIRTHDAY! Doesn’t miss a trick, that boy) on a lovely snow-filled run along the river in the other direction, where the snow was a bit more sloshy and muddy and generally unsure underfoot. For dinner, we searched for a decent place to be open, and accidentally happened upon a traditional Lorrainean restaurant! They gave us FREE quiche lorraine to start, and we sampled new apéritifs! Forgotten what exactly we ate, but I do remember our high level of satisfaction afterwards.
The following day we were leaving Metz, but stole a quick breakfast at the same patisserie as the previous day (well, we paid for it, but we were significantly quicker this time). Caught the bus to the train station to ride the TGV back once more to Paris.
I have vague memories of this time, which was full of revisiting the old haunts of the beginning of our trip, and filling in the gaps of places we’d wanted to visit but hadn’t. Amongst some nostalgia and crying and general woosiness of my personality, of course. In summary:
- we hired bikes again;
- we visited the Louvre again (different wing this time – saw the lady La Joconde herself, The Mona Lisa [underwhelming, in my opinion. There were other, far more enjoyable, artworks on display] and a wanky watercolour-er who was drawing a magnificent statue at the top of a flight of stairs [it was actually quite good, but nonetheless…]);
- we visited the Musée d’Orsay for the first time (I’d been telling Jus we had to go, and unfortunately we chose the day that all the world has free entry so it was ridico busy, but absolutely wonderful artworks. We both liked the styles more than the Louvre. Good ol’ easy-to-digest Impressionism. Afterwards we were so hungry though that we scoffed down a crêpe and a croque monsieur!);
- we went again to Le Pergolèse, the Micheline-starred restaurant (all by ourselves this time! Made ourselves order different things, even sampled a wine, all very exciting and expensive and French and filling and wonderful);
- we loved the falling snow around Paris (even dog pees were freezing on the footpath!);
- we went for a run in -5°C temperatures (no other run in Paris because, frankly, I shouldn’t have to run if it will hurt to breathe);
- I got a haircut (after insisting that Justin should too, but I guess it’s only fair that we each get one this trip);
- we watched The Triplets of Belleville (and a bit of Seinfeld); and
- we made nuisances of ourselves at that amazing bakery in the 10th again (seriously, those croissants are to die for).
On the day that Jus left, I don’t really remember what we did.
Saying goodbye was the worst thing ever.
Worse than all the blood noses, runs, dehyj, hair knots, blocked toilets, small eyes, burst hot water, fall-overs, hangovers and McDonalds that we’ve experienced in the past nine weeks.
And here must end, for the time being, the adventures of Justincredible and Oblivious Oribia in France 2012.
But stay tuned for the next installment of: Oribia is all angst and depresso by herself.