This morning was another up and get going kind of day; I will let myself have a lie in at some point this holiday, but I wanted to squeeze a lot in this morning as a lot of places around here tend to open for a few hours in the morning, close for an hour or so over lunch, then re-open in the afternoon.
I spent yesterday evening working out the order of events for the day, which started with Le Palais du Pain d’Epices – yes, a gingerbread museum! I didn’t really know what to expect, but was actually pleasantly surprised. It was only €3 for entry, and the museum itself was totally adorable; an animated gingerbread man leads a tour via screens in each of the rooms! Unfortunately he only spoke French, but all the information boards around each of the rooms had translations for both English and German. I learnt about the history of gingerbread, and it’s significance in the region, then walked through the house of the gingerbread man, snapping as many pictures of various recipes as I could, before entering their recently set up Christmas gingerbread grotto, which featured an entire wall of gingerbread bricks, made in the onsite bakery. I also got a glimpse of the production line through windows into the factory, where staff were mixing, baking and decorating gingerbread treats! Finally, it was exit via gift shop, where I was totally overwhelmed by the vast quantities and varieties of biscuits.
Keeping on a foodie theme, next up was Les Secrets du Chocolat Musee! After paying for my ticket (I can just about do that conversation in French now), I was handed a small box of chocolates, and pointed towards the door of a theatre, so without wanting to seem like a English moron, I walked into the auditorium and took a seat, when a film started playing on the big screen; it was a guided tasting of the chocolates I’d just been given! The man spoke French, but with subtitles I could follow along easily as I ate each of the 4 chocolates, as well as seeing a little clip about the production of each one – fab! After that was over, I walked through the museum itself, which covered the history of chocolate, it’s journey to Europe and historical significance, and also a bit more of the production. Another gift shop, which smelt amazing but I resisted, ever conscious of my strict budget!
Next on the list was Montagnes des Singes, a monkey sanctuary. I arrived just as they had closed for lunch, so sat out in the car park for a bit to chill out and munch on some of my car food. This was when the heavens opened and the rain began, but ever over-prepared, it was just coat on and brolly up, and I was back to it. I got in as soon as it re-opened, which meant it was fairly quiet. It was basically just a huge enclosure that you could walk through, with over 200 macaques running around that you could hang out with; as you enter, you’re given a handful of popcorn to feed them as you go round, and the little guys are everywhere, and so interesting to watch. There was a feeding talk shortly after I got in, which is normally in French or German only, but as there was a large group of Americans, they had agreed to do it in English which was a lucky coincidence!
After finishing up with my monkey buddies, I had planned on going to the nearby eagle sanctuary, but due to the poor weather they had closed, so I went off grid a little, following road signs to a ‘nearby’ castle. It was right at the top of what seemed like a small mountain, although I couldn’t tell as everywhere around me was just cloud! It was the Chateau de haut-Koenigsbourg, a 12th century stronghold that had been destroyed and abandoned during the Thirty Years War, and restored at the beginning of the 20th century. Although it boasts spectacular views of the surrounding area, I saw nothing but cloud, which actually made it seem even more impressive and you get a real sense of how high you are. The castle itself was a mixture of its original self, the work of the restoration, and also more recent efforts to maintain it, but was impressive nonetheless.
After descending the mountain, leaving the cloud up there, I really got to appreciate some of the beautiful villages I was driving through, which was really the reason behind my wanting to visit Alsace. The combination of brightly coloured and classic half-timbered buildings, as well as windy streets and villages separated by vast fields really was something to appreciate in itself. I headed towards Colmar, which was a town I had wanted to see, but after driving around for a little while, it became clear that it wasn’t really as tourist-y as I had thought it would be, so I drove around the streets taking in some of the city sights, but didn’t stop, instead making my way straight to Mulhouse, where I’m staying for 2 nights now. A quick stop at the supermarket to pick up some food, and a hotel room picnic for dinner; I’m a happy girl!