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!

My European Roadtrip – What I’m Packing

Guys, I LEAVE FOR EUROPE TOMORROW!!!

Yeah, I’m just a tad excited, and when I’m excited for a holiday, I start packing stupidly early. I’m not even kidding, my clothes have been packed for a week already! So today I’m going to share with you what I’ll be bringing with me – not the entire contents of my suitcase or anything, but the main bits, and my ‘car kit’ etc!

Suitcase essentials

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Obviously, my case is primarily full of clothes, and I’ve been planning my outfits for ages (cos I can’t just wing it!), as well as undies and socks and tights etc. I’m also bringing my own towel and a full washbag, because I can’t rely on half the hotels I’ll be staying at to provide some of these bits.

Disneyland Paris

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I’m so excited for my birthday weekend in DLP, and therefore necessary Mickey ears have been packed, as well as my lovely new tote bag, and I’m looking forward to revealing my beautiful birthday dress, which I’ll be wearing in the parks on Saturday!

The Tech

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I can’t go anywhere without my camera, of course, and I’ll be bringing my laptop so I can regularly back up photos, as well as blogging my adventures. Of course my phone will be coming, and I’ve got a European data sim so that I can keep connected in low wifi areas, and obviously I’ll be bringing all the relevant chargers and travel adaptors!

Car Kit

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As its a road trip, I’ve got to make sure I’m stocked up with the necessary items for driving in Europe: breathalyzers, a safety triangle, headlamp diffusers and a high-vis jacket are legal requirements in most countries. I’ve also got a full European atlas – as well as my new satnav – a blanket, first aid kit, torch, and all my necessary paperwork: European breakdown cover documents and car registration. As you can see, I’ve organised it all in this handy car-boot organiser!

Food

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I’m not going to be stuffing the car full of food, but in order to save myself a bit of money (I am on a budget after all!), I’ll be bringing a selection of breakfast options – cereals, biscuit bars etc – to save the cost of breakfast each day, or lunch if my hotel provides breakfast, as well as a few snacks and possibly a couple of ‘instant’ meal options, should the facilities be available for me to heat my own meals. I’m also bringing some bottled water for long journeys, as well as those handy little squash bottles!

So tomorrow I’ll be packing all this into my little car, and we’ll hit the road! Do you have any road trip essentials?

xoxo

My Upcoming European Road Trip

As some of you may know, its not too long before I pack up my car and head out on an adventure in the great, wide somewhere. Well, strictly speaking its just Western Europe, but still.. Yes, I’m going on a road trip! And yes, I’m going alone, and I’m really quite excited about that.

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The premise behind planning the trip was really my 21st birthday. I’m not a huge fan of my own birthday, but being my 21st I knew I had to commemorate it somehow, and I started thinking about it shortly after my last birthday. Originally I had the wonderful idea of returning to Disney World, until it turned out to be not quite so wonderful; October is inconvenient – I’d have no one to go with. This had me totally disheartened, and I began to accept that an unforgettable birthday wouldn’t be on the cards.

Then one day I was writing my travel bucket list, and it suddenly occured to me how easy it would be to visit quite a lot of these incredible places in one go, and thus the road trip was born! I began planning and playing around with dates, as I already had two weeks booked off work, and then something else kinda amazing happened – my parents approached me with the idea of spending my birthday weekend in Disneyland Paris, and it all fell into place!

So where am I headed?

Well I’ll be hitting the road on the 30th, and catching a ferry across to France before driving down to Mont St Michel. After exploring the beautiful peninsula, I’ll be heading across to Paris to meet my parents and sister when they fly in, and we’ll be spending the weekend in Disneyland Paris!

Once they head home, I’ll be continuing across to the east of France, before spending a few days working my way down through the Alsace region, stopping at the picturesque towns of Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhouse. From France, I’m ducking into Switzerland for a day or two, spending time in Geneva and visiting Chateau de Chillon before making my way into Germany.

My must-see in Germany is Neuschwanstein, the castle Walt Disney based several of his iconic palaces on. After that, I’ll be driving up through Germany, stopping in Dusseldorf, and on into Amsterdam for my last few days before catching a ferry back to the UK on the 15th.

Yes, I’m a little light on the specifics, but that’s the beauty of this trip. I know where I want to go and what I want to see, but the timescale is totally flexible. I’m officially winging it!

Want to keep up with me?

Don’t worry, I’ll be posting my daily antics every evening, and no doubt blowing up my Instagram and Twitter with photos. I’m also planning to Periscope a bit on my trip, so if you scope, give me a follow!

xoxo