Well, since Friday morning we've kept up our somewhat pacey holiday - or maybe it just feels as though its all going too fast?
We started off Friday by basically asking ourselves if there was anything we really wanted to do before we left, and Jacqueline had mentioned a couple of times a gorge we'd passed several times during the week, the Gorge du Pont de Diable just a short way up the Val d'Aulps. Being the intrepid photographer that I am I failed to realise that a gorge might well be quite a dark place, and so left behind the wonderful new flash I'd bought just a month before coming on holiday - it would have been ideal. I haven't looked yet at any of the photos, but I seriously doubt that any are publishable - I didn't take the tripod either so anything that was taken was a case of me dicking around with as many settings as possible to try to get a shot that was both in focus and exposed.
Still, we don't live for photography, do we?
Friday continued with a trip up to Evian, and from there the ferry across the lake to Lausanne. Very grey and showery across the lake, and we arrived in complete ignorance of the place. Consequently we walked up from the port, must have been the best part of half an hour in the rain, until we got to the shopping streets. A spot of lunch at an excellent Salon de The, and even Alice was in fine fettle. A couple of hours walking around the quite pleasant Lausanne - we had sunshine by this point, and it was warm enough for a Slushie later on - and it was time to head back. This time we took the bus (yeah, I know, we walked up the hill and bussed back down it, that's how daft we are!). Across the lake the weather closed in once again and we ended up getting back to the chalet in heavy rain.
Of course, there was more to do once we'd got back because we were leaving the next day. Pack, pack, pack. But everything went well - apart from the hot water cutting out - and I was able just to get up on Saturday and lift the cases into the car. Apart from the enforced cold shower (brrrrr!), very stress free.
Drove north up through Switzerland, again in heavy rain and almost as heavy traffic, and crossed back into France at Basel - we were about to embark on our first visit to Alsace.
Stopped at Colmar in time for a late lunch - it was gone 2 o'clock and I'd promised Alice a MacDonalds, although I have to say the burger I had was pretty awful. Still, mooching around Colmar put us all in a good mood, what a beautiful town. And, of course, Saturday means shopping and so both women of the family were happy. (Alice these days makes bee-lines for places like Sephora.)
After Colmar we had just a short drive to the hotel, which I had just picked out of the Michelin Guide. And what a result! The hotel itself was nothing special, but it was in the beautiful wine village of Riquewihr, truly charming. Even better, when I discovered that the hotel
had no restaurant, and asked the receptionist for her recommendation, we ended up eating at the sumptuous Grappe d'Or, for a truly superb meal. Very memorable.
A good (alcohol-aided) night's sleep and I was up early the next morning at seven, leaving the family fast asleep and exploring Riquewihr in the sunshine armed only with a camera. Being out that early has two advantages: first, the sun isn't up properly yet so there are normally a fair amount of shadows; even moreso there are hardly any bloody people about! I think I got some good shots, though as yet they're still on the card so I'll have to check when I get to upload them.
Back to the hotel for breakfast, then a further exploration "en famille". By now all the (tourist) shops were open, and the place was becoming crowded, but of course I didn't care since I'd already done my snapping. All in all, then, a wonderful day in Colmar and Riquewihr, we have already decided that the area warrants a week's visit at some point.
Further north, up to Strasbourg, on Sunday afternoon. Again, a great time, although Strasbourg is of course a large city, and although the architecture was wonderful it hasn't managed to retain the charm of some of the smaller towns. For example, we sat at a restaurant for about fifteen minutes, waiters bustling all around us, without being offered even a menu! (We walked, but presumably some other tourist would have been along five minutes later to take our place.) When we finally did sit down for a meal, I ended up waiting fifteen minutes between asking for and receiving the bill. I almost walked then too, but of course I would then have been in the wrong. Compare this with the excellent service the night before...
So there we were, yesterday evening, heading west along the A4. We stopped just outside Saint Avold, and again I know very little of the place other than its location as an ideal stopover. This time, however, there will be no exploring, since we want to continue our travel toward Paris, for the biggest surprise for Alice on this holiday - a couple of days at Disneyland Paris. And right now, she hasn't a clue!