A year after our USA adventure, wife 1.0 and I were packing our bags again. Maybe we’d won the lottery and she hadn’t told me?
Punched SYD-SIN-CDG-SXB into the flight computer and off we went. Being in the air for nearly 24 hours straight is no picnic. Arrived Strasbourg totally exhausted but dragged ourselves out to a nearby cafe for a few glasses of the local beer.
Vineyards of Alsace
Stayed a few nights in Strasbourg to recover from jet-lag. It’s a charming city, or was then. More on that later.
I’d convinced the then wife to undertake a self-guided walking tour through the vineyards of Alsace with Sherpa. Keep in mind that neither of us were overly fit, and the prospect of undertaking such an trek was well outside of our comfort zone.
The inspiration came from somehow stumbling across a trip report posted by Kaydee on the SlowTrav website. Slow Travel was an offshoot of Slow Food and our walking pace definitely put us in that category.
While we didn’t have a podium finish, we saw a lovely part of France and achieved something I’m still proud of to this day. We ate hearty meals every night and slept like babies, to be expected after walking for up to 6 hours a day. I think I dropped 5kgs that week alone.
Did I mention the wine? It was a passion of ours and we indulged it to the hilt during this trip. The Riesling was superb!
The Touring hotel at Thannenkirch was amazing, thumbing a ride and sitting in the back of an old Citroen 2CV, Hauts-Konigsberg, stumbling across a small village festival at RiqueWihr and the eagles at Kitzheim all come to mind.
I thought that after walking through vineyards and forests for a week a visit to the spa town of Baden Baden might be a good idea. Only about 30 minutes from Strasbourg on the choo-choo and you’ve crossed into Germany.
We found a non-descript little hotel, dumped our bags and headed for he Caracalla Spa – the thermal waters were indeed soothing. The mixed nude sauna on the other hand, was interesting to say the least. Couldn’t drag the missus in there, though.
After that we high-tailed it to Munich primarily to hit the beer gardens. Under the watchful eye of the Chinese Tower we sampled the local fare and I began to work my way through the first of many steins of the brews on offer.
By the time we had weathered a light storm at Seehaus, I was definitely the worse for wear. Eventually a taxi was needed to get us back to the Hauptbahnhoff. Great day!
The train trip from Munich to Venice is, IMHO, one of the best on offer in Europe. I have traveled the route twice now and would happily do it again. The small Austrian villages in the alps and the wine country of northern Italy provide plenty of eye candy during the 8 hour trip.
I remember Walking out the front of the St Lucia station and seeing the canal for the first time – still gives me goosebumps. I’m a little sketchy on the details of what we got up – we stayed at a Best Western near St Marks Square and found a great cappuccino in an alleyway somewhere, that couldn’t be re-located.
I enjoyed Venice much more the 2nd time round, I think you need to get a feel for the place to decide what you enjoy doing there – glad I avoided the Gondola rides (ripoff!) – sorry boys, I know you have to make a living, but still.
There was a pivotal moment of the trip when we returned to the station upon departure. We had air tickets booked with one of the budget carriers for Rome when I decided to make a spontaneous itinerary change and proudly produced rail tickets for Bologne. The wife was an avid John Grisham fan and I believe the town had just featured in one of his recent novels (at the time).
Wasn’t the best idea I have ever had – I discovered to my chagrin, that Europe is not the USA. Sometimes if you don’t have a hotel booking you don’t end up with a bed that night. Such would be the case in Bologne, as there was a trade show on and no room at the inn.
There was stress, there were tears, and to cut a long story short we ended up in Milan that evening and a taxi driver who I will be forever grateful to found us a place to stay.
The silver lining of that traumatic experience was that we got to visit Lake Como, which we had not been planing to do – and it was spectacular.
They say all roads lead to Rome, don’t they? We eventually found one that did, or at least an express train from Milan.
Honestly I was totally underwhelmed with the Italian capital. Looking back there are some great pictures so maybe it was my frame of mind, who knows? I do remember drawing my breath when first seeing the Collosseum after exiting the subway. Wow! We ticked off all the tourist traps – St Peters Square, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum and let’s not forgot getting ripped off in one of those restaurants offering menus covered in flags from all nations.
Just not my sort of town I guess – each to their own.
Then we made the painfully slow train journey up to Turin. (Recall that itinerary change I made earlier – we had now traversed the country a few times or at least it felt like it!). I wished we had alighted at somewhere around the Cinque Terra, alas we did not, however.
While there wasn’t a whole lot to do in Torino, we found a risotto to die for – yep, it was that good, last supper sort of stuff. I’d recommend it to anyone on death row.
After all that it was time to catch our breath and head to Spain. You can catch up with the details of that in part 2.