THE GRAND EST REGION – RICH PASCHALL

Today we are off on our latest adventure to Alsace. On this trip I will be joined by my frequent travel companion Lewis and a friend of his. We are going by way of Paris, as Lewis wishes to see this great city again. After our brief stop over we will be off to Strasbourg and a visit with my best friend there. We will try to bring back great travel news and pictures, but in the meantime here is a look at one of our past adventures.

A Visit to Strasbourg by Rich Paschall


Just across the Rhine River from Germany, in the northeast corner of France, lies the capital of the Grand Est (East) Region.  It is the largest metropolitan area in Alsace and home to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union.  Because of its central location in Europe and proximity to Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well as “Allemand” (Germany), it is a major confluence of architecture, culture and cuisine.

Gare de Strasbourg

Whether you arrive by train from Paris, or other city or town around France, or come via the Lufthansa bus from Frankfurt, Germany, your first stop will be at Gare de Strasbourg (or Strasbourg railway station).  You can get a nonstop train from Paris, but you may find it easier to fly to Frankfurt and take the bus direct from Frankfurt airport.  Having made this trip many times, my preferred route is via Frankfurt.  While the French have made it easier in recent years with a direct train from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport, rather than having to go into the city to Gare de L’Est, you are likely to find the air fares from USA TO Frankfurt to be much cheaper than going to Paris.

Like most European cities, there is no need to rent a car.  Public transportation will get you around town and around the region.  Strasbourg is a great walking city and small enough to reach most of the sites on foot.  Tram and foot power will take you where you want to go.  Of course, a local friend with an automobile is a plus, but not necessary in the city proper.

Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre

From the train station there are many reasonably priced hotels within a short distance, even if you are toting luggage.  Straight ahead from the station is the Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre. The picturesque street will take you past shops, restaurants, a large and very old church (of course), as well as hotels.  From this area you will enjoy many lovely trips around town.  If you do not have phone service outside the country, download a city map to your phone or tablet and use it as your guide.  If you are lucky, your hotel or other tourist stop will have a map that is actually printed on paper.  Strange, I know.

Place Kléber

Of course, it you forgot your iPhone or whatever electronic device you can not live without, you can always make your way to the large public square known as Place Kléber to visit the Apple Store.  I guess the techies will know by this stop that city is up to date and not just filled with ancient churches and quaint restaurants.  I will just sit by the fountain as you go in and gaze at all things Apple.

Wine Producers exhibition

The large convention center is home to many events.  We were lucky on one trip to make it to the wine producers convention.  Here the wine makers try to interest stores and restaurants in their latest wines.  Of course we could not stop at all of the many hundred booths to sample all of the products.  Fortunately, my friend was familiar with the wine producers of the region and was able to point me in the direction of the best ones.

If you appreciate a good stroll through town, you will find grand architecture and important historic sites.  There are cozy restaurants and side-walk cafes.  You can walk east and see the Rhine and another country across the way, or amble past the rivers and canals.  Going by the sites on a car or tram means you may miss the beauty of the ancient city.  If you can, take a walk with friends.

A tour with friends

Cathedral selfie

Almost any walk around Strasbourg will bring you to the spectacular Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. The height of its tower makes it visible from almost anywhere in the city.  It is 466 feet and it was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874.  At present it is the 6th tallest church, and the tallest building surviving since the Middle Ages.  Other structures were on the site previously, but this cathedral was begun in 1015 and celebrated its thousand-year anniversary in 2015.  Much of the first structure burned to the ground in 1176 because of the wooden framework.  Construction began again on the current structure and was not finished until 1439.  This remarkable edifice was 424 years in the making.  It is the pride and joy of this region and a must stop for your travel itinerary of Alsace.

The complex west façade, or front of the building, is decorated with thousands of figures.  Do any of them represent actual people of that era?  The Gothic style of the front of the building is considered a masterpiece.  Some see the design as random, perhaps it is not.  The north tower rises to a great height, but the south tower was never built.  The result is a uniquely shaped building.

When I see these old structures, I truly wonder how they built them without modern construction equipment.  On the other hand, only craftsmen of that era could have built this.  Nothing like it is built in modern times.  During World War II the stained glass windows were removed and stored in a salt mine in Germany.  They were recovered and returned after the war by the American Military.  Seeing these windows today, you have to wonder how they got them in originally, as well as removing them to safeguard them.  The church suffered damage during air raids by British and American military.  It was not until the 1990s that the repairs were complete.

From Rue Mercière

I have seen the structure often and been inside a few times.  There can be lines of tourists outside, and they now employ a level of security that was not there the first time we visited.  If you encounter a line, be patient.  The trip inside is worth the wait.

Source: Strasbourg Cathedral, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg_Cathedral
Related: Destination: Friendship

LIVING IN TWO PLACES – Rich Paschall

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

A while back I saw this Daily Prompt question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeWhat would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has over 42,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Chicago Skyline

Chicago skyline from the museum campus

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues. The major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Selestat

Selestat, France

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?

ALSACE ADVENTURE – Rich Paschall

Strasbourg and Beyond, by Rich Paschall

For many years now Strasbourg has been a favorite vacation stop.  It is not just because of the wonderful historic sites and amazing food and wine, but also because of the friends who live in the region.  I am sure you will agree that any chance to visit one of your best friends is a good enough reason to head out on a new adventure.

In the northeast corner of France, right across the Rhine River from Germany, lies Strasbourg.  It is the largest city in the Grand Est (East). The metropolitan region is home to almost a half-million residents.  It is an important city in the European Union as the location of several EU institutions, including the European Parliament.

Strasbourg, France

Despite the many visits to Strasbourg, I never really walked through the area known as “Petite France,” where they maintain the architecture of the Middle Ages.  Known for the many white and black timber buildings, it is a lovely throwback to an era long past.  Of course, we have seen many buildings like this throughout the city and the region.

In 1988 the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.  This includes the famous cathedral, sitting on a foundation over a thousand years old.

Street of “Petite France”

Every visit to Strasbourg must include a stop at the grand Cathedral.  Built on the foundation of a previous structure, the current church was built between 1176 and 1439.  If you see the size and intricate detail of the building and then consider there was no modern building equipment, you will understand why it took centuries to complete.

The street leading up to the cathedral might be a bit “touristy” for some, but I must confess that we stopped in the shops and purchased some souvenirs along the way.  I can never return home without the required refrigerator magnet, and my friend picked up several items to remember the occasion.  We also stopped near the end of the street near the cathedral for lunch at an outdoor cafe.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

Literally in the shadow of the Cathedral is the Palais Rohan.  Built in the 1730s as the resident of the princes of the House of Rohan, French royalty who served as bishop and cardinal of the cathedral, it has been a museum in modern times.  It was seized during the French Revolution and sold to the municipality where it served for a while as the town hall.  Some of the original furniture and artwork were sold off or destroyed.

The site had been a bishop’s resident since 1262.  The courtyard and the area between the palace and the cathedral have been the scene of archeological digs throughout modern times, including some of our visits.  There they have found artifacts from ancient Roman times.

Palais Rohan

One of the joys of centering your trip in Strasbourg is being able to head off to regional sites of interest.  Whether you are going to other towns or villages by train from Gare de Strasbourg-Ville, by tour bus or have a friend to drive, you will find much to see.

Mosbach winery

With my friend as driver, we always head to a wine producer for a taste of the local vintage.  It might seem a bit odd on a Sunday morning, but we found Mosbach willing to open the shop and hand out samples.  Alsace is famous for its white wines and my French guide selected a bottle for each of us.

There are many places to stop along the famous “wine road.”  The region is filled with vineyards that climb up the side of the hills, and wine producers ready to welcome you.

From here we went to the popular Mont Ste. Odile, or Hohenburg Abbey, where Saint Odile (c. 660 to 720) served as abbess.  Legend has it she was cured of blindness as a child.  This is why she is known as the patron saint of the blind.  She is also considered the patron of Alsace.

From atop this hill, Odile is said to look out over Alsace as protector of the region.  When one enters the abbey, its church, and its chapels, one wonders how they built this many centuries ago.  The modern-day road is narrow and winding and the hill has a dense forest.  One is left to wonder how they were able to get all the materials used in the building to the top of the hill.  The view is worth the trip.

Alsace region from Mont Sainte Odile Abbey

Someday in the future, I hope I can make this trip again.  There is a great value to the discoveries that travel will bring into your life.  When you have a chance, hit the road for new adventures. They are not only educational but rejuvenating in ways that are hard to explain.  As Rick Steves (PBS travel shows) will tell you, “Keep on traveling.”

Visit the photo gallery here.

EAT, DRINK, AND TRAVEL ON – Rich Paschall

Selfies, groupies, and foodies?

There are probably a few derogatory comments on social media about people who take food pictures.  OK, there are probably more than a few.

I may have even made one or two myself.  After all, these people are not writing reviews of the local restaurant for the New Yorker or Chicago magazines.  They are snapping pictures of their overpriced food from some overcrowded food court.  We, on the other hand, are snapping pictures of our excellent meals and truly excellent selves. If my brother were computer literate and online, he would probably be excited.

When I headed off on our recent adventure with a roommate who previously thought you could not have a meal without rice, we learned there are many things you can serve with your main course.  Below are just a few of from our gastronomic adventures.  You may even have seen some of this in our recent review of Frankfurt or will see soon in our Alsace travel report.

Be sure to click on any of the pictures to go through the full size of each.

Related: Frankfurt am Main

WHERE IN THE WORLD? – RICH PASCHALL

 Ouagadougou, anyone?  by Rich Paschall

One of the many things that has surprised me about education in the twenty-first century is the absence of Geography in grade school and high school curriculum.  When I have asked any young people in the last two decades if they have taken geography in school, the answer is usually the same.  “Geography?  What’s that?”

When I was in elementary school, we took Geography.  We had Geography books.  The class room had Geography maps so we could understand where in the world our place of study was located.  They were the kind of maps that rolled up like your window shades.  There were pictures pinned to a bulletin board of various places we might study.  The geography course was our window to other locations in the world.  It was an introduction to other people and cultures.  I always found it an interesting class, although I did not know at the time just how useful it would be.

Earth

There were many things about geography that I did not find so interesting.  The topography was lost on someone who lived in an area that is completely flat.  Information about crops and commerce held no delight at the grade school level.  The local currency meant nothing to a boy with a tiny allowance.

Climate was interesting, however, to someone who had experienced the severity of all four seasons.  I could not imagine living somewhere that had a colder climate then we have in winter.  I did imagine that places with warmer weather throughout the year would be great to visit, especially in winter.  Pictures of green mountains or long, sandy beaches fueled my imagination.  I did not think I would ever get to travel much, but the views of great scenery and different types of structures were the joys of my young fantasy vacations.

With the news of the world more available than ever, you would think that geography would be an important field of study to more than the CIA.  Perhaps those in charge of various school boards around the country do not think so.  Can you match these cities recently in the news with their countries?


City ——————————- Country
Mogadishu————————United States
Castañer ————————– Israel
Bishkek —————————-Turkey
Ankara —————————- Kyrgyzstan
Tel Aviv —————————- Somalia


When I was first working in freight forwarding, a young person was trying to pronounce the name written on one of the folders.  She may have been filing items by destination. To just look at it, you would not think it a mystery, but the uneducated person was lost. “Tell a, Tayla, tellavi…”  At that, a very annoyed supervisor in another group yelled over to our area, “Tel Aviv! Tel Aviv! It’s in the news sometimes.”  It was the capital of Israel at the time, and it is the only international airport in the country.  I guess we are always stunned by people who do not know the capital cities or the largest airports of any country.  By the way, the supervisor shouting the name of the city across the office remains one of our favorite air freight stories. It also points to the deficiency in our education on geography.

Another part of Earth

When I got a job in air freight, I think I already had a good idea of the capitals and major cities of most countries, and now I have come to learn their airport codes as well. The locations of major hubs of commerce and the airlines that fly there are key to our success.  You could put Asian freight on Lufthansa, who makes its first stop in Frankfurt, but it may make more sense to put it on a carrier going west to Asia.  It really depends where you are. If you are on the east coast, for example, it may make a bit of sense to go east.  Lufthansa does go most places in the world.  If you are in Chicago, it may be better to go west.

We can send your Shanghai freight from Chicago on a European carrier, but the distance will be greater to fly east, the cost will likely be more and the time of travel will be greater.  No plane would have the range to go nonstop.  However, there are Chinese carriers, as well as American Airlines, who fly non stop from ORD (Chicago, O’Hare) to PVG (Shanghai, China).  Because of competition, you are likely to get a good rate for the faster transit.  In freight forwarding, it is important to have an idea where everything is located in order to make the best routing decisions.

This is true for your vacation trip as well.  When I tell people I have gone to Alsace, France, they usually conclude I must have flown to Paris.  The truth is, I usually fly to Frankfurt, Germany which is about the same distance from Strasbourg and usually cheaper.  I have also considered the Euro-Airport at Mulhouse, France which is closer, and the airport at Zürich, Switzerland.

Strasbourg, France

Grab a map and discover the world. OK, here are the answers, although I am tempted to tell you to grab a Geography book or just Google it.

1 – Mogadishu is the capital of war-torn Somalia.

2 – Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

3 – Ankara is the capital of the Republic of Turkey.  You probably thought it was Istanbul.

4 – You can fly to Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, which is a major international city, but no longer a capital. 

5 – Castaner is a mountain community in Puerto Rico that was devastated by the hurricane.  Yes, it is part of the US.  And one more just for fun. 

6 – Can you find Ouagadougou on a map?

THE GRAND EST REGION – RICH PASCHALL

A Visit to Strasbourg by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Just across the Rhine River from Germany, in the northeast corner of France, lies the capital of the Grand Est (East) Region.  It is the largest metropolitan area in Alsace and home to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union.  Because of its central location in Europe and proximity to Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well as “Allemand” (Germany), it is a major confluence of architecture, culture and cuisine.

Gare de Strasbourg

Whether you arrive by train from Paris or other city or town around France, or come via the Lufthansa bus from Frankfurt, Germany, your first stop will be at Gare de Strasbourg (or Strasbourg railway station).  You can get a nonstop train from Paris, but you may find it easier to fly to Frankfurt and take the bus direct from Frankfurt airport.  Having made this trip many times, my preferred route is via Frankfurt.  While the French have made it easier in recent years with a direct train from Charles De Gaulle airport, rather than having to go into the city to Gare de L’Est, you are likely to find the air fares from USA TO Frankfurt to be cheaper than going to Paris.

Like most European cities, there is no need to rent a car.  Public transportation will get you around town and around the region.  Strasbourg is a great walking city and small enough to reach most of the sites on foot.  Tram and foot power will take you where you want to go.  Of course, a local friend with an automobile is a plus, but not necessary in the city proper.

Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre

From the train station there are many reasonably priced hotels within a short distance, even if you are toting luggage.  Straight ahead from the station is the Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre. The picturesque street will take you past shops, restaurants, a large and very old church (of course), as well as hotels.  From this area you will enjoy many lovely trips around town.  If you do not have phone service outside the country, download a city map to your phone or tablet and use it as your guide.  If you are lucky, your hotel or other tourist stop will have a map that is actually printed on paper.  Strange, I know.

Place Kléber

Of course, it you forgot your iPhone or whatever electronic device you can not live without, you can always make your way to the large public square known as Place Kléber to visit the Apple Store.  I guess the techies will know by this stop that city is up to date and not just filled with ancient churches and quaint restaurants.  I will just sit by the fountain as you go in and gaze at all things Apple.

Wine Producers exhibition

The large convention center is home to many events.  We were lucky on one trip to make it to the wine producers convention.  Here the wine makers try to interest stores and restaurants in their latest wines.  Of course we could not stop at all of the many hundred booths to sample all of the products.  Fortunately, my friend was familiar with the wine producers of the region and was able to point me in the direction of the best ones.

If you appreciate a good stroll through town, you will find grand architecture and important historic sites.  There are cozy restaurants and side-walk cafes.  You can walk east and see the Rhine and another country across the way, or amble past the rivers and canals.  Going by on a car or tram means you may miss the beauty of the ancient city.  If you can, take a walk with friends.

A tour with friends

Cathedral selfie

Almost any walk around Strasbourg will bring you to the spectacular Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. The height of its tower makes it visible from almost anywhere in the city.  It is 466 feet and it was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874.  At present it is the 6th tallest church, and the tallest building surviving since the Middle Ages.  Other structures were on the site previously, but this cathedral was begun in 1015 and celebrated its thousand-year anniversary in 2015.  Much of the first structure burned to the ground in 1176 because of the wooden framework.  Construction began again on the current structure and was not finished until 1439.  This remarkable edifice was 424 years in the making.  It is the pride and joy of this region and a must stop for your travel itinerary of Alsace.

The complex west façade, or front of the building, is decorated with thousands of figures.  Do any of them represent actual people of that era?  The Gothic style of the front of the building is considered a masterpiece.  Some see the design as random, perhaps it is not.  The north tower rises to a great height, but the south tower was never built.  The result is a uniquely shaped building.

When I see these old structures, I truly wonder how they built them without modern construction equipment.  On the other hand, only craftsmen of that era could have built this.  Nothing like it is built in modern times.  During World War II the stained glass windows were removed and stored in a salt mine in Germany.  They were recovered and returned after the war by the American Military.  Seeing these windows today, you have to wonder how they got them in originally, as well as removing them to safeguard them.  The church suffered damage during air raids by British and American military.  It was not until the 1990s that the repairs were complete.

From Rue Mercière

I have seen the structure often and been inside a few times.  There can be lines of tourists outside, and they now employ a level of security that was not there the first time we visited.  If you encounter a line, be patient.  The trip inside is worth the wait.

Source: Strasbourg Cathedral, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg_Cathedral
Related: Destination: Friendship

DESTINATION: FRIENDSHIP

A Trip to Alsace, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


In the eastern part of France, along the Rhine River and the borders of Germany and Switzerland, lies the region known as Alsace.  The colorful history and culture of this area could never be told in a brief post. From ancient time to the present, the land has been part of the Holy Roman Empire, the Frankish Realm, German Empire, Kingdom of France, Nazi Germany, modern-day France and others.  The fusion of cultures and languages makes the area a fascinating trip through history, tradition, architecture and cuisine.  A prominent feature of the region today is the wine vineyards.  A trip down the wine road is a delight.  I have done it often.

Green alternative

Although you can take a flight to Paris and go on to Strasbourg, the largest city of Alsace, by train, the more efficient and cheaper transit may be to fly to Frankfurt/Main, as I did on my most recent journey.  From there you have several choices to reach Strasbourg.  I have taken the Lufthansa bus in the past, but this time my friend recommended Flixbus.

This is a relatively new service connecting many western European cities with a “reliable and green alternative” to other services.  The new buses and quick trip to Strasbourg, along with the significantly cheaper prices compared to the Lufthansa bus, make it the best choice if the timetable fits your schedule.  This time it worked best and I arrived quickly in the center of Strasbourg.

My friend collected me at the bus stop and on we went to the small town of Selestat, which dates back to at least 727 AD.  We have spent much of our time together here in recent years.  It is the center of our adventures.  For me, the best part of the trip is to sit on the small balcony of his apartment, look at the castles on the hills around us and enjoy a local beer or glass of Alsacien white wine.

Selestat, Alsace, France

It is not necessary to go to exotic and expensive places to have a good time.  We watch sports and eat together in my friend’s apartment.  We visit with friends and relatives.  We make some local stops, but the time together discussing American sports is more enjoyable than I could explain.

When my friend was off to work, I took in some of the local sites with his father.  He speaks no English and I know little French.  It does not matter, we have a good time.  At least I am having a good time and I think he is too.  Sometimes I do not understand where we are going until we arrive.  I don’t mind.  It will be fun.  Our first adventure took us to a local distillery museum.  It is new and has interactive displays.  At the end you finish in a gift shop (of course) where we sampled their main product, Eau-de-vie (water of life).  It is really a clear, fruit brandy.  A friend of mine calls it French moonshine.  It will certainly wake you up if you took a morning tour of the museum and gift shop as we did.

The Maison du Distillateur

You’d need help to carry this home.

If a clear brandy does not suit your taste, perhaps the local chocolate museum and shop will.  On our next adventure, all I understood from my friend’s father was chocolate was in our immediate future.  How could I say no?

So off we went to learn about the making of chocolate and to see a demonstration by a craftsmen who melted chocolate and then created leaves and animals and a variety of chocolate charms to the delight of the crowd.

The chocolatier spoke French so I understood little, but watching him create was a joy.

Le Maitre Chocolatier

Old church, small town Alsace

The region is dotted with small towns that are a step back in history.  We have no such places in the US, as these town contain buildings that pre-date America. The culture has evolved over many more centuries and the history of many of these locales tells tales that would delight an historian. In each of the stops, we see a lifestyle unlike our own. I particularly enjoy the ancient churches for what they tell us of the individual towns.

It was love and sacrifice that brought people together to build unique structures before there was any modern technology or construction equipment.

Ribeauville, Alsace, France

I could wander endlessly through the streets of these old towns and villages, stopping in shops to view the local wares.  It is a joy to have a cup of coffee at one stop, a pastry at another and perhaps a wine at another.  The slow pace of exploration is so much more pleasant than the tourist traps of the major cities.

Yes, I enjoyed Paris and would even go again, if I could, but the back streets of the small towns will fill your eyes with delight and warm your soul for reasons you will not fully comprehend.

Sunset in Alsace

Each time the sun sets on our visit in France, the sadness grows a little stronger.  That is because there is one less adventure in our future, one less year to be together.  It is also a time of joy, because there was one more adventure and one more memory to take home.

WHERE WOULD YOU TRAVEL? – RICH PASCHALL

When Your Destination Is Not A Place, Rich Paschall


Where would you go if you could travel anywhere at all?  Where would your sense of adventure lead you?  Would it be around the world or around town?  Perhaps it would have to be domestic.  You could go to St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch and the mighty Mississippi River.  You could go up river to Hannibal, Missouri and see Mark Twain’s home.  From there you could head east to Springfield, Illinois and see Abe Lincoln’s wonderfully preserved home, maintained by the National Park Service.

Gateway arch

You might have one of the great wonders of North America in mind.  So you could head north of Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls and ride the Maid of the Mist right up to the Falls, or you could climb down the cliff to a point where the water falls between you and the land.  On your way home you can stop in the Anchor Bar, home of Buffalo Chicken Wings.  Yes, that’s the place that started what is now a full-blown food craze.

If this does not suit your taste, perhaps you would run up to the northwest corner of Illinois and stop in Galena, the “town that history forgot.”  You can walk through the mid 1800’s.  You can stop at the spot of speeches by Abraham Lincoln (1856) and Stephen A. Douglas (1858), or visit the home of President U.S. Grant.  At this time of year, you could travel down to the Mississippi River, just west of Galena and, with any luck at all, see the proud American Eagle.  The very site of the bald eagle, waiting to come down from the cliffs to fish, will make the trip worth it.  Although you may have to go further inland to the Great Plains during summer to see them.

If none of these northern stops are what you desire, then perhaps you could fly to Orlando, Florida, take in amusement sites then drive to Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, down to Miami and onto the Keys.  A stop in the Everglades means you can see alligators up close, REAL close.  The Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast can be a playground.

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

If Europe is your adventure you can fly to Frankfurt and go on to Stuttgart for museums and festivals.  You can visit Strasbourg, France or cross the Rhine into Allemand (Germany).  You can visit the magnificent ancient Notre Dame Cathédrale de Strasbourg or ancient castles of Alsace.  There are vineyards and wine festivals and if you like, you can visit the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France.  It is in the middle of a busy traffic circle so you have to run fast and dodge the cars if you want to get over to it.

If Germany or France are not on your list, how about London?  It is one of the great international cities.  In 1777, author Samuel Johnson, writer of an early English Dictionary, stated words that are still true, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  A few days or even a few weeks are not enough for the sights of London.

Approaching St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

Why do I bring up all these travel ideas?  It is because I am thinking of a recent journey.  Some of my friends may say, “Did you go there again?”  I traveled to the northeast of France.  It is the eighth year in a row my trip ended up there.  In 2010 we made a trip to Stuttgart for an Oktoberfest type celebration, then on to France.  In the  summer of 2013 I went with some friends to Paris, and then on to Strasbourg.  In 2012 I met my friend in Baden-Baden, Germany so we could fly together to London for the Summer Olympics, then we went back to France.  Last year I made it all the way to Selestat, France on my own.  This year my friend met me in Strasbourg and we traveled on from there.  These annual trips were all at different times of year.  Some years my friend came to Chicago as well.

Good wine and good friends, the best destination

For all of these travels we had some specific ideas in mind, but each time we did much of the trip spontaneously.  When I reflect on these journeys, I realize there was no destination.  I could have been going anywhere.  We dreamed and we went, but it didn’t matter where.  The ultimate destination was never a place.  It was a friend.  Yes, we visited new places and familiar locations.  There are always new adventures, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t matter where we go.  We enjoy our trips, large and small, because we are doing them together.  Every stop is fun, every place is exciting, everywhere is new, even if we have been there before.  It is because I am with a great friend.

We have been together on all the adventures I have mentioned above.  Of course, we often set off to see great sites or experience great things, but they were made special by the fact that we shared these adventures.  So I will probably fly to Frankfurt again some day and take the bus on to Strasbourg.   The final destination is friendship, the best destination of all.

TRAVEL ON – RICH PASCHALL

Where To Next? by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Perhaps you have seen the commercials or print ads for a popular travel planning site that features a garden gnome. Yes, a garden gnome!  If you have done any travel planning online, then they may have popped up on your computer too.  The internet is smarter than we are and knows when to send us a picture of a garden gnome.  For years I thought the ad campaign was silly.  I could not imagine why a lifeless gnome was speaking to us from various locales from around the world.

Then a friend recommended the beloved 2001 French film Amelie to me (aka Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) .  Actually, he checked it out of the library, gave it to me and told me to watch it.  Amelie was busy in her life solving the problems of others while neglecting her own.  As the film progresses, one of the people Amelie turns her attention to is her father, a widower who rarely seems to make it past the garden and his beloved gnome.  I will not explain the importance of the wooden figurine, but needless to say, Amelie has launched a great plan that includes the gnome.  If you do not know French, watch it with subtitles.  It is worth it.

Tom Law t-shirt, Chicago

Some years after discovering why the gnome is travelling the world, I had a conversation with musician Tom Joseph Law regarding his t-shirts and where they had been seen online.  Perhaps it was just a casual conversation about the posting of a friend, I honestly don’t recall, but I do remember that I had a picture of myself at a local event in 2015 where I was wearing the shirt.  So I posted it to Facebook.

Colombia

In the picture, a stick figure Tom is falling off his surfboard while a large fish seems ready to greet him.  It is based on a rather horrible surfing accident which Tom relayed to me one day in quite a bit of detail.  Some of it is a bit amusing now that time has passed, but it was not pleasant.  It affected Tom’s voice for a long time to follow.  This is not good for a singer-songwriter.

The first time I went to Colombia, I took the shirt along and got several pictures throughout Medellin.  I am not sure which one I posted at the time, so here is one with my friend and tour guide for the visit.  Not only did John take a few pictures with my camera, but we also bothered his friends to get some pictures of us. It was the first time John and I met in person, after a year or more of conversation.

On the next trip to Colombia I may have forgotten this particular shirt, but I had another Tom Law shirt with me.  It is the drawing that also appears on the cover of an album (EP, actually).  I may have violated the true spirit of the gnome, but nothing says Colombia more than an American wearing the British guy’s t-shirt in front of the British store in a mall in Medellin. So here it is anyway.

Medellin

When I finally got to travel to England and visit the area where Tom is from, he had already left the country.  I am pretty sure that had nothing to do with our arrival.  So we found our own travel guide and went on to Bath while Tom was hiding in an eastern European country.  I guess it was his own personal Brexit.  Anyway, I got my travel companion to take pictures of my gnome t-shirt with my phone.  If you wish to see pictures of our tour of Salisbury, Stonehenge and a Roman Bath, you can find them here.

Bath, England but where is Tom?

Last month I visited my closest friend in France.  This brought the opportunity to get another picture of the traveling t-shirt with the gnome falling off the surfboard.  On a sunny day in a week that was filled with clouds, we made it to Strasbourg where I coaxed the French guy into taking pictures of yours truly in the British t-shirt. Since the guy in the foreground is not much to look at, it is fortunate we were on the street that leads up to the magnificent cathedral in Strasbourg.

Strasbourg, France

This historic building was started over a thousand years ago.  It is awesome in its intricate details and is always a site to behold.  At one time, it was the tallest structure in Europe.  Now the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg should be on the tour of anyone passing through the Alsace region, whether you are carrying a garden gnome or not.

When considering all of the countries where this shirt has been, whether there was a postcard home from the gnome or not, Tom thinks it may have made it to more countries than he has.  That’s not too bad, actually.

EAT LOCAL, DRINK LOCAL

Enjoying the Local Cuisine, by Rich Paschall


Imagine getting on a plane and flying for eight hours, landing in another country, to go to McDonald’s.  The premise may sound a bit absurd, but it is the sort of thing many people do.  When we stayed in London recently, we found a street nearby that has a Burger King, Subway sandwiches and a Kentucky Fried Chicken.  In fact, there is no shortage of American fast food places near the tourist-laden Paddington area.  These familiar sites attract many tourists, largely American, as well as some others and some locals.  We walked past these familiar stops in favor of local businesses.

It does not matter how many seats they have

It does not matter how many seats they have

For some the familiarity is the thing that drives them into the establishments they know from home.  They will certainly get food they can eat at prices that are still reasonable.  To me, it does not matter.  I did not go all that way to eat at someplace I can visit walking distance from my house.  If I want a Whopper with Cheese, fries and a diet Coke, I know where to get it.

On the same street with the American fast food giants were local coffee shops and restaurants, a pub or two and even a London Chicken stop that looked like they may be providing fast food.  We skipped it too. Of course, if you are on a limited budget, you may wish to go places where the food is cheap.  However, local business may also have food at reasonable rates.

My friend from France has a motto by which we travel.  “Eat local, drink local.” That does not include local fast food.  We always skip those.  If we are unfamiliar with a location, we pick out something that looks good and we give it a try.  Sometimes you must have a sense of adventure.  It does not mean you have to spend a lot of money.

Beer, Food, Beds!

Beer, Food, Beds!

Within walking distance of our London hotel, we found many shops and small restaurants for breakfast and lunch.  At dinner time we checked out the local pubs, never going to the same one twice.   In a spot called the House of Paddington, where they served Fish and Chips all day, the edge of the awning advertised Beer, Food and Beds.  Since we passed it everyday, our curiosity was finally aroused enough to visit it on the last night.  As I did not yet have Fish and Chips on the trip, I went ahead and ordered.  And yes, they do have beds for weary travelers or maybe for someone who has stayed too long.  They run a hostel on the floors above.

Some think that food in England is rather bland, but the only thing I found to be that way was the fish (cod) and chips.  Everything else was tasty.  We washed down dinner with local ales, taking recommendations from the bartender at each stop.  “Nothing too bitter” was my request each time, while my travel companion was content to drink the dark and bitter stuff.  We had plenty of selections that we had never heard of before.

Drink local

Drink local – London

If you can not afford to eat at local spots, no matter how reasonable, then you may consider dropping into local markets for your breakfast and lunch and picking out items that are easy to make or you can eat on the run.  Some years ago when I visited Paris with a friend, we discovered that our tiny room also came with a tiny refrigerator.  We pushed aside those hotel items to make room for some yogurt, water and whatever we could make fit.  In that way, we ate out less often and did not pay for the mini bar items. In fact, I have used this trick a number of times.

I love the food and wine in France.  I am fortunate to have a close friend in the Alsace region and we have toured there a lot.  Of course, he took me to some of his favorite spots, and at other times we tried something that was new to us both.  It is good to know someone who knows all the good wine tasting locations as well.

French cuisine and fine wine

Eat local, drink local – France

Once we met in Frankfurt and travelled to Stuttgart by train.  We attended the Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart during the traditional Oktoberfest season, but I have wisely decided not share any of those pictures.  Let me just say the food and drink were excellent.  We have a pastry shop picture instead.

Eat local - Germany

Eat local – Germany

When my friend from Alsace makes the long trip to Chicago, he does not want to see the Burger King or Ronald McDonald when there are so many good restaurants and sports bars.  I could name locations in this country as well as others, where we avoided the fast food for the local fare. When you are on the road, find out what is good to eat at your destination city, and skip the fast food you can get at home.

Eat local - Chicago

Eat local – Chicago

LIVING IN TWO PLACES

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

Recently The Daily Prompt asked this question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeIf you have been visiting this space regularly, you may have noticed that Marilyn responded to the question when is was posted over a week ago.  If you read SERENDIPITY, her choices would not have been a surprise to you.  If you missed it, you can run right over there now and read her response.  You will find it here.  Don’t forget to come back!

What would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has about 50,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues and the major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.  Chicago Skyline

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.Selestat

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?

WHERE WOULD YOU TRAVEL?

When Your Destination Is Not A Place, Rich Paschall

Where would you go if you could travel anywhere at all?  Where would your sense of adventure lead you?  Would it be around the world or around town?  Perhaps it would have to be domestic.  You could go to St. Louis and see the Gateway Arch and the mighty Mississippi River.  You could go up river to Hannibal, Missouri and see Mark Twain’s home.  From there you could head east to Springfield, Illinois and see Abe Lincoln’s wonderfully preserved home, maintained by the National Park Service.

You might have one of the great wonders of North America in mind.  So you could head north of Buffalo, New York to Niagara Falls and ride the Maid of the Mist right up to the Falls, or you could climb down the cliff to a point where the water falls between you and the land.  On your way home you can stop in the Anchor Bar, home of Buffalo Chicken Wings.  Yes, that’s the place that started what is now a full-blown food craze.

If this does not suit your taste, perhaps you would run up to the northwest corner of Illinois and stop in Galena, the “town that history forgot.”  You can walk through the mid 1800’s.  You can stop at the spot of a Lincoln-Douglas Debate or visit the home of President U.S. Grant.  At this time of year, you could travel down to the Mississippi River, just west of Galena and, with any luck at all, see the proud American Eagle.  The very site of the bald eagle, waiting to come down from the cliffs to fish or even sitting on a junk of ice on the Mississippi waiting for dinner to swim by, will make the trip worth it.

If none of these northern stops are what you desire, then perhaps you could fly to Orlando, Florida, take in a Magic game and drive to Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota, down to Miami and onto the Keys.  A stop in the Everglades means you can see alligators up close, REAL close.  The Gulf Coast and the Atlantic Coast can be a playground.

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

Seeing a rainbow over Germany from France

If Europe is your adventure you can fly to Frankfurt and go on to Stuttgart for museums and festivals.  You can visit Strasbourg, France or cross the Rhine into Allemand (Germany).  You can visit the magnificent ancient notre dame cathédrale de Strasbourg or ancient castles of Alsace.  There are vineyards and wine festivals and if you like, you can visit the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, France.  It is in the middle of a busy traffic circle so you have to run fast and dodge the cars if you want to get over to it.

If Germany or France are not on your list, how about London?  It is one of the great international cities.  In 1777, author Samuel Johnson, writer of an early English Dictionary, stated words that are still true, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  A few days or even a few weeks are not enough for the sights of London.

Why do I bring up all these travel ideas?  It is because this week I am on another journey.  It may lead some of my friends to say, “Are you going there again?”  I am off to the northeast of France.  It is the sixth year in a row my trip will end up there.  In 2010 we made a trip to Stuttgart for an Oktoberfest type celebration, then on to France.  In the  summer of 2013 I went with some friends to Paris, and then on to Strasbourg.  In 2012 I met my friend in Baden-Baden, Germany so we could fly together to London for the Summer Olympics, then we went back to France.  Last year I made it all the way to Selestat, France on my own.  These trips were all at different times of year.  Some years my friend came to Chicago as well.

In all of these years we had some specific plan in mind, but we did much of the trip spontaneously.  When I reflect on these trips I realize there was no destination.  I could have been going anywhere.  We dreamed and we went, but it didn’t matter where.  The ultimate destination was never a place.  It was a friend.  Yes, we will visit new places and familiar places this week.  There will be new adventures, that’s for sure, but it doesn’t matter where we go.  We enjoy our trips, large and small, because we are doing them together.  Every stop is fun, every place is exciting, everywhere is new, even if we have been there before.  It is because I am with a great friend.

Good wine and good friends, the best destination

We have been together on all the adventures I have mentioned above.  Of course, we often set off to see great sites or experience great things, but they were made special by the fact that we shared these adventures.  So this week I have gone to Frankfurt, Germany to catch a bus to Strasbourg, France.  From there I will take a train to Sélestat, France. “J’arrive à la gare de Sélestat à 17 heures, 10 minutes.”  The final destination is friendship, the best destination of all.

 

Now consider THIS

See on Scoop.itForty Two: Life and Other Important Things

And so the pissed off women of Paris took down the government.

October 5, 1789: 6,000 angry working-class women — armed with everything they had and could get from the city armory — march in the rain from Paris to King Louis XVI’s palace in Versailles to demand bread. Once there, they stormed the gates and compelled the king to return with them to Paris, which proved to be his downfall.

See on womensphilanthropy.typepad.com