Saturday, September 11, 2010

Day 18 - Reims (The drive to Paris *OR* The last leg)

I had to check out Reims. In the now 29 or so years that i have been going to France, I had yet to see Reims. This would ordinarily not be a problem but my dad was born there, and for my visit to have that kind of delay, is absurd. So I checked out the Cathedral (an obvious choice) and the ‘now’ house that was the ‘then’ clinic where he was actually born, and got tons of pics!

Want to see some?








And the street and former clinic where my dad was born on August 18th, 1946. We checked it out 64 years and a couple weeks later...




There you have it, after this last quick visit we made our way to Garches (outskirts of Paris) to spend a brief day and a half with my grandmother before heading back to reality!




Lots of Love
Michelle and Ryan

Days 16 & 17 - Strasbourg – once again, something we can say that we have seen, once.

Petit France and the old area of Strasbourg are old, cute and quaint…but some other areas certainly leave a little something to be desired. We did have some good regional food though; tarte flambee (onions and bacon standard and bacon and Muenster cheese which is also local‘ish’), and choucroute – which is a massive platter of pork (sausages and otherwise), sauerkraut [choucroute], and potatoes.



Given our ‘meh’ take on Strasbourg (we only ever wanted it to be a base point) we spent our only full day there by heading to Baden Baden in Germany. We went to enjoy the Caracalla Thermal Baths (the not nudie ones!) and massages… much, much better! They say thermal water has health benefits and healing properties, how much effect that had on us, I couldn’t say.. but I know that we thoroughly enjoyed our 2 hours in the various baths ranging from 18 degrees to 36 degrees (outdoors and indoors) and our 30 minutes massages. So perfect! Following that we had lunch in Baden Baden. How regional our dishes were, I couldn’t say, given that the women serving us spoke only German, but they were good! Ryan had a massive cabbage roll and I had some kind of pork in a beer sauce…Beer sauce? I’m in!

I obviously couldn’t take pictures inside the baths because whether or not it was allowed, I thought it was a bit invasive on the other bathers (even though some people did not share my feelings), so I’ll attach some pics and info from online for Caracalla.

Baths
Bath pictures HERE





I did however take some nice pictures in Strasbourg, so here they are…

 








 
 
Love,
 
Rye and Mich
 
xoxo

Days 14 & 15 - Chamonix, I must love winter, deep down inside.

How many ways can I say that this place in insanely fabulous?!? I would love to spend Christmas there someday, keeping in mind that I would freeze (you know, me being me).

So Ryan doesn’t do heights, but I made him :) Well no not really, I said I would go up the mountain on my own, but he is awesome and came with me! We drove through the Mont Blanc tunnel to get there from Italy, and I mean, sure it was cool… 35 Euro cool? Maybe not, but whatever we’ve now done it. So afternoon number one in Chamonix we hauled ass to make it for the last train to Montenvers, which is at 1913 meters and home to a funicular down to a glacier in the mountain. The glacier has reduced greatly over the years, and there are signs on the mountain indicating it’s former level in a variety of years, so it is sadly not as neat as it may have once been, but now you can go in it! Every year they carve out ‘rooms’ in the ice and there is a path that you can walk through, it’s pretty neat nonetheless, when else am I going to be ‘in’ a glacier? Day number two saw us get up very early so that we could make one of the early funiculars up the Mont Blanc, with all the other diehards. We caught the 9am car, which in addition to us, was full of people with cold weather gear, backpacks, hiking boots, and ice picks. We stood in line in hoodies, jeans, gloves (purchased the night before) and running shoes (I also had a scarf), drinking our coffees while they were putting sunscreen on their faces, we were out of our league! The first car takes you up from 1030 which is the level Chamonix is at, to 2300 referred to as the ‘plan de l’aiguille’ in about 20 minutes (the dangling is especially fun..err yeah). The next car takes you from the plan de l’aiguille to l’aiguille du midi at 3800 (yup, more dangling), where you can catch another elevator (inside the mountain this time) to 3842 meters!! Needless to say, this has to be one of the most amazing things I have ever done and now Ryan can say the same.. thanks to me!! Hehe (credit where credit is due and all that jazz)!! We also ate amazingly during our two nights there, some good cold weather, mountain, stick to your ribs kind of stuff. Night number one we had ‘Raclette a l’ancienne’ (Ryan is a notorious, ‘easy on the cheese’, which is good for me of course…but he LOVED it!!). For those who don’t know what Raclette is; it is a wedge of cheese slowly melted at the table using some heat source, and is eaten with boiled potatoes and some form of sliced meat…yummers! For those that do know what Raclette is, but were born in the last century, “a l’ancienne’ constitutes an old school cast iron apparatus with a small ‘oven’ holding wood embers which simultaneously heat the cheese and make everything smell a.m.a.z.i.n.g!! The second day, we warmed up after the mountain with braserade which again using a cast iron grill thingie, brought to our table we cooked beef and chicken ourselves (which the best charcoal flavour you could imagine) and had fries and various ‘sauces’ (garlic mayo, herb mayo and cumin mayo). That night, when we could move again, we went out and had a beef stew, served once again, out of a cast iron pot tableside (well, by us)… so amazing.. I just, can’t describe it. Oh, did I mention that I’m well on my way to chubbers?? So worth it though! That pretty much sums up Chamonix though, awesome ‘one time’ opportunities and some great eats!

These are some pictures that you have to see;









Love,
Ryan and Michelle
xoxo

Days 12 & 13: Bellagio, Italy (Lake Como) If it's good enough for George Clooney..

...then it's good enough for us. (Well he isn't in Bellagio but you know, the lake.)

It took what felt like an eternity to get there, driving though Italy (which let me tell you, is no laughing matter). Ryan has a head cold (yay for being sick on your honeymoon, right?) and had to deal with what must have been a joke of a drive; crazy tunnels, stupid slow speed limits (and drivers), tolls that had no rhyme or reason, and rest stops that were comparable to a petting zoo gone haywire. Poor guy, but he got us here and in one piece too (you’ll see what a feat that was when I post pictures of the bike path they call a road through the mountains, below)!

Anyway, all totally worth it because this place is STUNNING! The lake is gorgeous, the streets are beyond quaint and the food is awesome. On the first night, we ate at a little restaurant on the water (I should also mention that there may or may not have been a hurricane pass through here at that very time, as the winds were out of this world…we couldn’t let go of our wine glasses the entire meal for fear of wearing them, but we are troopers after all!). The second night, we ate at what had to be a mom and pop joint, and I just can’t say enough great things about it. It is up there with some of the best meals that I have ever had. A+ to La Lanterna, if you are ever in Bellagio, it is a ‘must do’.

Also, I should mention that we probably had the best view in town. For anyone who has ever been to Europe, you know that hotel rooms here in comparison to what we have at home are NOT the same thing. This room though? Huge! With an amazing view out two sets of (modern) French doors onto two wrought iron balconies with flower baskets on the third floor of a hotel that is already 38 cobblestone steps up from lake level. We had a perfectly unobstructed view of everything… so very, very, worth it.

Ok, so blah, blah, blah right? I am sure you’re just here for the pictures…

What a mess!!!

Not a mess!!!






Anyhow, I hope you can tell how beautiful everything is here and that if you are ever in a daredevil kind of mood, you should make the trip…but it is not for the faint of heart!!

Lots of love.

Ryan and Michelle

xoxo