Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
149Trip End Jun 15, 2012
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Back when I had planned the trip I figured that we would develop a sense of home with each location, and to not feel like we were constantly on the move. I learned this from my travel days when I was fresh out of college, that travel is exhausting and takes all of your energy. To counteract that constant sense of movement and exhaustion, I had built this trip with month-long stops where we would branch out from each location in order to explore the surroundings. But it became obvious to Estela and me that the kids have grown bored after about ten days, and sometimes would lose interest in even leaving the apartment to wander around the neighborhood
France, Alsace specifically, is a very nice place to hang out, but the place lacks adventure, at least for me. It is too much of the good life, easy living at its most casual. Days and nights are filled with strolls through quaint towns copied from fairy tales, shopping, snapping pictures, drinking wine and eating cheese. We are ready for adventure. I got the same feeling twenty six years ago when we spent six months sailing through the Mediterranean, getting fat on rich, fatty food and gelato. We did very little physical exercise to balance it out. When we finally got to the Red Sea everything changed. We started diving every day, sometimes all day long, on the world famous reefs that lined the shores and islands. We ate what we shot and climbed through dozens of shipwrecks that dot every reef in the northern Red Sea. We rode on manta rays and chased sharks around, and did quite a few shore trips in most countries we visited
I have had a fun time navigating with the GPS, now that I was able to turn off the voice of the sexy British secret agent who annoyed me so much. The GPS navigation system was not made for places like France. For example, I could drive from our place in Riquewihr to the highway, and the system would figure out a different route every single time. You wouldn't know there were so many different ways to go from one point to another, but I now know that there are an endless number. The most efficient route, as I found from driving endlessly and ignoring the GPS, was through the very center of two towns, then down a single lane that bisected a huge vineyard for a couple of kilometers, to finally arrive at a major road that was the only straight road in France. This straight road pointed perpendicularly towards the highway, but did not interface with the highway. Instead, you turn right at a third small town, down a business street to a roundabout, then for 100 meters on an unmarked, unnamed asphalt path behind some warehouses, where you turn left onto what starts to look somewhat like a street. Then you find yourself, quite unexpectedly, on the highway onramp. I can see the GPS programmers wagging their heads, mouths agape, in disbelief. Quite a few times the GPS would take me down long roads and leave me staring at a wall or a locked gate or a giant field of corn
One thing that surprised me about our stay in France was just how cool everybody was with us. Even though I tried to learn French before showing up (Rosetta Stone, don’t buy it), and giving it all I had while I was here, I really learned very little French at all. But without exception I was treated with respect by every single person I met or interfaced with, and nobody ever gave me that 'oh you Americans need to learn OUR LANGUAGE’ that everybody talks about. Perhaps Alsace is different from other places in France, but we were treated the same way in Provence and in the other places we traveled through. Few people in Alsace speak English, or want to speak English with me, but we struggled by on all occasions, and were never treated poorly. It was nice to see.
France is a beautiful country full of wonderful people, great food, and the best wine and beer we have ever had. I give it four stars, two enthusiastic thumbs up.