A Travellerspoint blog

More Christmas Markets

We are trying to hit up as many European Christmas markets as we can as this will likely be our last winter in Europe for the foreseeable future. So far we have been to Lyon, France; Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany; Johannisberg Kreuz (market in the forest), Germany; Bernkastel-Kues, Germany; Trier, Germany; our local Christmas market; Nancy, France; and Metz, France. In the upcoming weeks we hope to also attend Colmar, France for their Christmas markets.

First our town. The market is tiny but is has everything you need. Gluwein (spiced hot wine), potato pancakes, sausages and lentil soup. We enjoyed a nice evening with friends there this year and also a little daytime stroll through where we took these pictures. Also included is the main square with one of our town Christmas trees and a picture of a horse we saw on a walk.

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I don't think I have ever shared pictures of Ethan's best friend, Sherlock. He is our neighbor's dog and they love to play together. As you can see in the picture, Ethan will even share his bed with him.

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In this entry I will include pictures from our last two trips. The first was to Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This town is known for its medieval wall and intact buildings. It truly is the quintessential German experience. We took the long way to Rothenburg through various little towns also decorated for Christmas including advent calendars.

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Just when we thought it couldn't look any more like a story book, we arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

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Notice the wall says 1770. You can walk along the top of the wall almost all the way around the village. It has a covered walkway with holes to see out where the guards stood watch over the town. I believe it had 5 or seven different gates and they were all unique in their construction and design.

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We also took a stroll along the Tauber river to the neighboring town which also had many historic buildings and walls.

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On the way back we stopped in the Kaiserslautern area to meet up with Kyle and Julie and their little ones. We all went to the Christmas market in the forest the next day and ran into these crazy fools (Kate and TW + their newest addition) from back in our Japan days. It is so fun to have all of these Japan reunions. Love it.

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We might have bought matching hats

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I will leave it at that.

Next on the docket was a trip to Nancy and Metz. This ended up being primarily an eating trip intermixed with Christmas markets and walking. We have been to both of these cities before but wanted to see them at holiday time and we wanted to join our friends Kyle and Julie on a little adventure. Here are some pics from around Nancy with its beautiful ornate gates. We also enjoyed a date with Kyle and a date with Julie while the other stayed at home with the kiddos. We all love French food.

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While driving home from Nancy, we went to an ice sculpture event in Metz. The theme was Brothers Grimm fairy tales and the second half of the tent was Disney princesses dancing in a ballroom with their respective princes. It was COLD inside. Ethan was appreciative of being in a bag. We only got one group shot during this trip.

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It was a fun little weekend adventure and this is how we all felt once we got home and warm.

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Merry Christmas!

Posted by trackers 12:13 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Thanksgiving in Lyon, France

Quinn has been planning all of our recent trips and they all seem to be to France. Suspicious. Lyon is about a 6 hour drive from where we live and costs about 30 Euro in tolls. Lyon is divided by two major rivers and is situated partly on a giant hill with part of the old town being on top and part on the bottom. We were at the top which means going into town is an easy downhill walk but coming back home at night required some strenuous exercise fueled by butter heavy French dinners.

We enjoyed this particular trip over the Thanksgiving holiday with our friends Elliot and Lisette, pictured below.

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Almost every day of our trip we walked by this building. It had such beautiful colors and looked different in every light. I loved the gritty unpolished facade. Here are a couple pics of it.

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We spent one day wandering around the city on foot and hiking up and down the big hill to get different views.

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Two amphitheaters in one spot. I guess it is just easier to build a new one next door, than demo the old one.

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Photo shoot along the way

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Raised map

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Wouldn't be a European city without a magnificent church.

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One of the oldest Roman aqueducts in the area.

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This is a statue representing someone carrying the weight of themselves and symbolizes taking responsibilty of oneself. It is across the road from the city court office, which I jokingly referred to as the post office.

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Lyon even has its own free city zoo right inside the city limits.

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One unique feature of Lyon is that it has the confluence of two rivers at one end of the city. They have really capitalized on the double river front property by adding nice walking and biking paths along both rivers. They have a city bikeshare program so we spent about 5 hours riding bikes up and down the river through the parks, and down to the confluence.

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This is the amazing building at the confluence. It is a natural history museum.

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Of course, they even had a Christmas market and I really enjoyed this one because it had a lot of hand made items. I bought a pretty shell shaped necklace. I will try and feature it another time. Here are some night shots from our night on the town. Quinn led us in a bar crawl along the city that included a beer hall and also a cocktail bar with some very welcoming bartenders. When we walked into the cocktail bar we were the only ones inside. The bartenders in the back waved at us enthusiastically before we had the chance to get away and treated us to French hand crafted cocktails (one actually used his finger to stir the drink) and entertained us with jokes and cocktail knowledge.

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We even found time to make a Thanksgiving dinner on this trip and enjoy home made breakfasts every morning. Luckily we are all into cooking delicious food so we split up the meal duties and enjoyed yummy treats with only half the work.

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It was a really fun and laid back trip minus the hill climbing, biking for 10+ miles, and walking for hours around the city! No wonder our families are always calling our trips "boot camp." Hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and had time for family and friends. This year the family part was accomplished through Skype but maybe next year it will be in person?

Posted by trackers 12:45 Archived in France Comments (1)

Later fall activities including a trip to Lille

Quinn planned a quick weekend away for us on Columbus day weekend to Lille, France. It was a last minute decision but he organized a perfect trip. We stayed in a really cute little studio inside of a historic building. The innkeeper is also a carpenter and he built a secret dry sauna behind what looked like a closet door off the bedroom. It was so fantastic to have warm sauna time at the end of the day to relax. I don't think I have ever slept so deeply in my life. I am a sauna convert.

Lille is a really cute historic town with a beautiful nature park just outside the historic center. We started our trip with a visit to the park and a picnic. I didn't bring a heavy enough coat for the picnic so I used a blanket. Ethan also decided it was a wonderful idea to jump into the lake to chase a bird, no matter that he had his coat on. This park was full of all different bird species. It was beautiful.

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The downtown area of Lille was full of historic buildings with an ornate main square.

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A very skinny house

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On Sunday morning we went to an antique market in Tournai, Belgium. It had some really great finds as well as an amazing historic center. I knew it would have fantastic bargains because most of the shoppers were older folks who seemed like they knew about a good bargain.

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We enjoyed a lunch on the square and I tried to soak in all of the surroundings and the sun. It was a lunch I wanted to keep in my memory. Its not often that one gets to dine in such an historic atmosphere.

More pics from around Lille. One is of the train station. Another is of people riding bikes to power their phones. The bottom two are of Deliveroo which is a bicycle food delivery service. They were EVERYWHERE. We had a fun time predicting and taking guesses about how many Deliveroos we might see on our walks.

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We made one final stop in Roubaix and it turned out not to be a cute town. This building was one pearl among the rest.

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The next weekend we went to Kyle and Julie's house and they surprised Quinn with a birds of prey show at a local wild animal park. There are many animal parks all around Germany and they each have a surprising number of animals. This one was full of magnificent birds.

The birds were sitting on little perches before the show began and we could get surprisingly close. There were no cages in between us and the birds.

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The show began with condors flying back and forth behind the audience. They are so enormous it is a wonder they can even fly.

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During the show the announcer threw up little dead chicks into the air and the birds caught them with their feet. They must have gone through about 200 chicks. It was incredible to see them catch these birds in midair. Many times they dove in from quite a ways away to catch the chicks. They called the American Bald Eagle, Obama.

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I was really stoked to pet the owls.

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Our friend Linda was feeding the horses. She swore that she grew up around horses but she seemed a bit jumpy to me! Just teasing Linda.

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The view from the animal park was beautiful and they even had a little carved bench with the name of the park, Potzberg. Unfortunately, we didn't get a group picture. The birds were the star of this show. Thanks Kyle and Julie for a fun day out.

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Last weekend our friends from Belgium, Liesbeth and Pieter came for a visit. This time we took them on a little hike through our village vineyards and enjoyed happy hour with a view. We also had a bonfire in the backyard and stayed up chatting past our bedtime. Shout out and thanks to Andrea and Kevin for this Norwegian fire log. It was super cool. If you don't know about these, do a google search.

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Liesbeth and Pieter also brought me a fun Sinterklaas gift. This holiday has a very interesting history which you can google and read about some of the controversy with Santa's helpers.

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We took them to Luxembourg and it seemed like the whole city changed. We walked around the town in the bottom of the ravine and the different angle made it seem like an entirely new place. It was a nice sunny day and the company was so great. It is always fun to spend a weekend hanging around with these guys.

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It is always nice to have guests and we are already planning our next trip to Ghent to hang around with these guys and meet the newest member of their family. Thanks again.

Posted by trackers 05:25 Comments (0)

Friends and Fall Travels

After we returned from Italy we had one more set of visitors, Quinn's childhood friend Jeremy and Jeremy's Dad, Tom. They were quite the pair and did a fantastic driving trip around Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the Netherlands and even into Lichtenstein and Luxembourg. They managed to squeeze in a few days to hang around with us during the whirlwind European tour. We showed them the Eifel way of life including a few wine fests, a bike ride down to the river, and some walking paths around our town. I'm pretty sure we ended every evening with an ice cream for us and a walk for Ethan. It was really fun to have them as our guests and it was even more fun that they were willing to eat whatever dishe I put in front of them. They were such easy guests and I learned a ton about construction and cars/trucks during their visit.

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We attended a few classic fall events such as visiting a pumpkin patch. The one we chose was no regular ole patch. They turned all of the pumpkins into works of art by stacking them up into the shapes of dinosaurs. This little farm was so cute with their activities which included rowing 400 pound carved pumpkins in a lake for boat races and sipping on sparkling pumpkin wine while relaxing in bean bag chairs on their property. It was a great outing.

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We followed that up with a trip to Vogelsang. This is a very interesting historical site turned recreational area. Vogelsang is a former Nazi training camp that was taken by the British and later the Belgians and used as a military base. It 1996 the Belgians gave back the base to the Germans who have turned it into a historical site as well as an outdoor recreation mecca. Some of the buildings that remain are restored and are functioning as museums or tourist facilities. Others are vacant relics of a time past. There are miles of bike paths coupled with the Nazi indoor training swimming pool and outdoor track. There are propaganda sculptures that remain including a statue of 4 men that were considered the perfect human species. These statues are riddled with bullets from when the allies invaded and took over the camp. It is an eerie place mixed with dense forest and natural beauty. It is definitely worth a day trip.

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We even got to see some old timer planes flying overhead.

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Another weekend we hiked a portion of the Mullterthal trail with our friends Elliot and Lissett. This trail is a 70 mile trail in total and we did about an 8 mile portion. It is beautiful because it goes through a bunch of canyons including a slot canyon. It was a beautiful day and Quinn decided to extend his hike by running back about 2 miles to find his favorite shirt that he dropped. He is a really good trail runner thank goodness.

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For those who don't know, we haven't had a real bed in quite some time because one of my art projects went array. So, after much hunting for beds at antique markets I finally went the route of a pinterest inspired bed with some free apple crates that we discovered on a bike ride. A local farmer was burning hundreds of these crates and we asked him for a few. He obliged and voila.....new bed.

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Alright. You are caught up on most of our travels for now. I do have one more post about France that I need to put up soon. Hope that fall is treating you well. This week is already feeling like winter in Germany.

Posted by trackers 04:07 Comments (0)

Our first garden

After two years of composting and about that long thinking about starting a garden, we decided this was the year. I didn't want to invest too much money in this endeavor since I wasn't sure how successful it would be, so I started with seeds in some boxes that we had rather than buying a bunch of those little starter pots. I started all of the seeds in the house and then moved them to the wintergarden once it was warm enough.

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We did rent a rototiller to both remove the grass and mix in the compost into our soil. Quinn muscled that thing around like a champ. Originally I was just going to plant a small plot but as my seedlings grew and grew and grew, we began to realize that we were going to need quite a big space.

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I transplanted my seedlings in different batches based on what I read online. However, mother nature did not cooperate and we ended up having 3 unseasonably late freezes. I had to start all over again with some of the seeds while I tried to make the best of it with others. The corn plants and green zucchini were casualties of the frost. After the frosts, about 2 weeks later we had a flood! The river behind our house broke its banks and almost came into the house. This was the first such flood in at least 25 years. I couldn't believe my luck that we would have a flood the year that I planted a garden. The neighbors joked with me that next year they would prefer to buy me some vegetables rather than me start another garden because clearly I brought on the bad weather. Despite the challenges, it really started growing after some time.

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Here is some of the harvest.

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The yield from the pumpkin patch.

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A list of things I grew and actually was able to eat/enjoy- sunflowers, tomatoes, hot peppers, Swiss Chard, very deformed carrots (too much clay in the area where I planted them), eight ball summer squash, bush beans, and a few eggplants. I also had a little herb garden with chives, basil, mint, rosemary.

Things I attempted to grow but didn't work out: green zucchini, sweet corn, spinach. soy beans.

Successes:

1. Swiss Chard is super hardy and produces for a long period of time.

2. Squash is fun to grow because it produces and produces and produces.

3. I enjoy mystery bags of seeds or mix packs and seeing what happens. I had a mix pack of pumpkins and seeing all the different kinds of pumpkins popping up was a fun surprise.

4. If it doesn't work the first time, try try again.

Lessons learned:

1. Air flow is important for seedlings to avoid mold overgrowth. A fan was helpful in circulating air but I probably should have planted less items in each box so that it could dry out better.

2. Its probably best to leave plants to grow in the wintergarden while longer than to get a head start on putting them outside due to frost.

3. Floods are bad.

4. Tomatoes do better indoors in Germany because it is so wet and doesn't get hot enough. I should have grown them in the wintergarden.

5. My spinach went to seed right away in the garden. I tried starting it inside from seedlings and also growing it from seed right in the garden but both times it bolted right away. Anyone have any tips to prevent this?

6. Use heavier stakes for bean plants. They grow like crazy.

We really enjoyed working in the garden and watching the plants grow. It was such a fun little side experiment and I definitely look forward to having a garden again.

Posted by trackers 07:16 Comments (0)

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