Lottie Does Europe: A Zoo Day (with trains)

So this morning I actually allowed myself that lie in I mentioned yesterday, woo! Of course my body clock is fairly used to early mornings, and I think I still woke up at about 7.30, but I enjoyed mooching and laying around in bed for a good hour or so after that! This is also the first morning where I didn’t have to worry about packing up and moving on, as I’m staying in this hotel tonight aswell, so it was nice to not have to worry about clearing and packing everything back up.

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I also had a lie in due to the fact that today I went to Mulhouse Zoo, which didn’t open til 10 and was only a 20 minute drive from my hotel. I got to the zoo for opening, and while it was only €14.50, which I thought was a very reasonably price, I was determined to get my money’s worth out of the day. I’d packed a lunch on leftovers from yesterday’s supermarket shop, and I was reading for a day of meandering and animal watching.

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The zoo itself was much larger than I had thought, despite being fairly central in the city, and I’d only really covered a few of the different animals befor I headed over to the sealions for the morning feeding show; well, it wasn’t much of a show as it was watching the sealions being fed, but they did a few tricks and it lasted a solid 10 minutes or so. Afterwards I continued to wander the park, chatting to the various animals as I went, of course, and I’d covered about half of the enclosures by lunchtime, so I found a sweet little spot by a lake of ducks and flamingos to set up camp for lunch: cheese baguette and an apple. Being a weekday, it was really quiet, and I enjoyed the peace of sitting and watching the ducks for a good 45 minutes or so, before continuing on my way.

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After lunch it was a case of more animal spotting; the zoo had so many little twists and turns that it took me quiet some time before I’d hit everywhere; monkeys, meerkats, felines, penguins, I could go on.. I walked some of the enclosures several times because I know different animals are more/less active at different points of the day, and also to kill some time because I wanted to see the polar bears, which for some reason I couldn’t quite translate, weren’t let out until later in the afternoon.

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With that, I felt content that I had done everything to be done, having spent the best part of 5+ hours there(!!) and decided to spend the rest of my day at the Musee Electropolis: an electricity and science museum. This plan flopped when I got there only to find that, despite not being mentioned on any of the information leaflets I had collected, it was closed for refurbishment, so I thought I would check out the Cite du Train – train museum – that was just opposite. Now if I was an avid train person, I think I would have enjoyed it, but to be perfectly honest, while it seemed impressive at first, I was soon bored, and although I walked the whole museum (which was actually pretty huge), I soon gave up listening to my audioguide.

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Since getting back to my room for the night, I’ve spent my evening sorting the remaining details of my trip; I’ve now got all my accommodation booked, and I’ve actually changed my route through Germany, as well as adding in a day in Belgium before I head to Amsterdarm. Now everything’s a bit more set in stone, I’m pretty buzzed to continue on my adventure! Tomorrow I head into Switzerland, although I’ll be spending the night on the French side of the border to avoid steep hotel prices, so its back to longer drive lengths from here onwards!

For now though, French TV and bed!

xo

Lottie Does Europe: Sweeties, Monkeys and a Castle in the Clouds

Bonjour!

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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

xo

Lottie Does Europe – An Afternoon in Alsace

Good evening from Strasbourg! (stupid internet at my hotel won’t allow any photo uploads, so check back for pics later!)

As I mentioned yesterday, I was up bright and early again this morning to finish the drive to Strasbourg, and by finish, I mean another 3+ hours of driving! I’m actually surprised with how well I’m doing with the long drives by myself; I think because driving is something that is often done alone, for me it makes to real difference that I don’t have any company – you know, besides the voices in my head!

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I got to Strasbourg just before midday, found an underground car park and began exploring on foot. I was planning on going straight to the tourist information centre to get some ideas and info on what to do with my afternoon, but after taking a wrong turn, I ended up a little lost and decided that I would just let my feet take me wherever. I followed the pretty side streets, and eventually ended up in an area I’d wanted to visit anyway: Petit France.

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Situated by the canal, the area boasts beautiful classic French houses, dating back centuries; they were just stunning! After a little more meandering, and popping into a few local shops, it dawned on me that I had no idea where I was in relation to the carpark, and no idea how to get back, but as luck would have it, I turned onto a street I remembered from driving through the city, and just followed the route I’d driven to get back. It was while I was retracing my steps that I caught a glimpse of the cathedral..

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Helpfully also named Notre Dame (as I swear all French cathedrals are), it towers over the surrounding buildings, and as I marvelled over it, I realised I was just round the corner from the carpark – great! –  and that just across the square from the cathedral was the tourist centre I had been searching for – bonus! I grabbed as many of the brochures that took my interest, including one for a little train tour of the city, which was just about to leave from across the square, so I jumped on that. It took a route around the city, and had an audio commentary that I could listen to in English on headphones. For €7, it was a really great way to see around the city, and hear a little about the history.

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After the tour, I thought I’d hit a few of the museums.. Turns out, most places in the region don’t open on Mondays! So after grabbing a late lunch, I decided to go and find my hotel, which I’d already booked, so I could look properly at some of the leaflets I’d collected and plan my next few days – I love logistical planning. One of the attractions, an aquarium, was only a 25 minute drive from my hotel, so I decided to head straight across there after checking in.

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It was fairly small, and I was basically the only person there, but the resident cat kept me company as I went round! I was actually fairly impressed with the range of creatures; I had expected just fish but there were also tortoises, snakes, and even some crocodiles, as well as raccoons and copyu running around in outdoor enclosures.

By the time I was done, I figured there wasn’t really time to do anything else, and walking around the aquarium alone had made me feel a little sorry for myself, so I headed back to the hotel to cheer myself up by finishing planning my next few days of adventure, and spending a bit of time watching cheesy French TV while I got some writing done.

Bon nuit!