Eurotrip 2019 - Driving through Alsace and Verdun
After leaving Zurich, we started driving toward France! The drive itself was quite lovely - lots of cows and recently harvested hay fields, even some roadside castles! At one point we were driving along a river in Switzerland and the other side was Germany!
We arrived in Ribeauvillé a couple hours before we were able to get into our Airbnb, so we parked along one of the outer streets and got out to walk around. Instantly when we got out of the car, we heard this loud clicking noise coming from the top of a nearby building - it was a GIANT white bird in a huge nest! After realizing that these birds were a big part of the culture here (lots of them in the souvenir shops and lots of nests around town), we did a little online research and found out that they’re storks, and a lot of the stork “mythology” comes from the Alsace region.
So if you know just one thing about me, it’s probably that I’m a Disney freak, and you’re probably not surprised that I chose this town because it (and it’s neighboring Riquewihr) is one of the small provincial towns that inspired the look of the 1991 animated Disney film, Beauty and the Beast. And BOY was that evident when we started walking through town! The architecture and the colors of the buildings really made me feel like I was in the opening scene with Belle walking down the street, and I might have had that song stuck in my head the whole time we were there. There’s even a mountain with a castle on it that you can see framed perfectly between the buildings as you walk through town (you can hike there, which we didn’t do because of our short stay and Nathaniel’s sprained ankle).
We walked through town and I took way too many pictures, then we grabbed some wine (Alsace is known for Riesling), and waited for our Airbnb check in time. Once checked in, we got settled, showered off, and headed back out to explore. And I may have made Nathaniel take a million pictures of me reading a book by a fountain. Don’t judge me 😉
We got a freshly baked baguette and wandered back to our Airbnb before heading back out for dinner. This Airbnb was great - let me know if you want more info about it. It’s SUPER close to the main street, and it’s definitely been renovated recently. We really enjoyed staying here. They even left us a little bottle of wine that we drank while eating our fresh baguette! They also had a washing machine and a nice big drying rack, which is always important when you’re traveling for extended periods of time.
The next day we explored the neighboring town, Riquewihr (just a 10 minute drive), which was even more cartoonishly perfect, if that’s even possible. It was a bit more touristy, but getting there early helped out a bunch - we beat a lot of the crowds, and even some of the heat. We wandered up and down every little side street we could find, and I made Nathaniel take all of the pictures of me, because I’m living my best life as a Disney princess and I’m not going to apologize for it.
We went into a Christmas shop that was more cavernous than I ever would have imagined from the outside of the store. It kept going and going! We ended up getting a pretty stork ornament as a souvenir (we try to collect ornaments from every place we go because they’re small, but still something we’ll use).
We went into a couple churches, and while they’re not as ornate as the cathedrals in big cities, they still have stained glass and organs! We stopped for lunch, did some bird watching, then popped into a nearby winery to get a couple bottles.
That evening we cooked at our Airbnb and took it easy. The nice thing about Airbnbs is that they usually have kitchens, so you can choose to make dinner instead of going out. It’s also fun just popping down to the local market and getting your ingredients - I know that Belle wanted more than her provincial life, but I’ve gotta say - it’s not all bad!
The next day we headed east. Nathaniel has really been enjoying learning about history and he wanted to go see the Verdun battlefields (WWI). We listed to some Hardcore History to get in the right mindset for the visit. We walked briefly into the visitor center, but decided that we’d rather drive through the battlefield and just take in the landscape. There are some monuments and some old fortresses. And a lot of the land has regrown - there are trees and grass, but you can still see some of the trenches and the rolling “hilly” terrain is due to the battlescars left behind, not just nature. I didn’t take any pictures, because I don’t feel comfortable doing that in a place where tons of people died. Nathaniel took a handful - but he’s a photographer and understood the history well enough to capture the emotion that he was feeling while there. I think it’s important to understand the significance of the past and to observe with reverence. Not every day can be sunshine and rainbows, and our brief visit to Verdun was moving and important, even if it wasn’t the happiest place we could have stopped by.