On the loooong flight from Singapore to Frankfurt, we fly over Afghanistan (according to the route map – so if it wasn’t Afghanistan, it was awfully close).
We spend one night in Frankfurt (at Motel One, which I fully recommend. FYI – they’ve got a free shuttle service from the airport. Unfortunately, we found out too late. It’s a new service and one will that will save you 16 Euros in cab fare.)
The next day, with the help of some very friendly Germans, we make our way via bus and tram to the train station. We settle in for our first European train ride and comment on how comfortable the seats are just as a porter offers us a newspaper and asks if we’d like to order anything from the on board cafe. Several minutes later we realize we are in first class with our second class tickets. The tickets are in German, which makes them difficult for us to read (thanks for nothing to both of our German mothers – who neglected to teach us their mother tongue). We have since figured out that the rail tickets will tell you which car number you are in, usually along with assigned seat numbers, but, not realizing that yet, we boarded the wrong car.
Walking through the narrow aisles of a swaying train with all of our bags, through multiple first class cars, the restaurant car and into the second class section, narrowly avoiding getting pitched into the lap of an old man, we find our seats.
And two hours later we are in France!
Our introduction to France starts in Strasbourg, which is in the Alsace region.
We immediately fall in love with Strasbourg – it’s cobbled streets, colorful old buildings, flower boxing blooming over every balcony.
We are couchsurfing with Pedro and Lenka who couldn’t be more welcoming if they tried. They traveled for 10 months themselves and recently got married, so we have a lot in common. We trade travel (and wedding) stories – laughing at some of the similar experiences we’ve had, especially as blondes in Asia (Lenka and I).
They introduce us to the local wine, beer and culinary delights and we have so much fun with them during our three day stay.
Sometimes, a little too much fun…
We spend our days wandering the quaint cobblestone streets, take a boat tour of the city along the canal, discover such culinary delights as the Alsatian salad (a little bit of lettuce and a whole lotta cheese and sausage), sip cafe au laits at sidewalk cafes and take in the beauty of the Notre Dame cathedral (there are Notre Dame cathedrals in almost every city here – I thought there was just one – which is probably a North American misconception).
We spend our evenings eating, drinking and laughing with Pedro and Lenka and their friends. None of them are actually French – they are all from other European countries – but they all speak it of course. Most of them speak many languages (which we find very impressive) and which also shows another big difference between European and North American cultures.
When it’s time to leave, we do so reluctantly. So reluctantly in fact that we barely make our train…we are literally running through the station with Pedro, Lenka and Lucy (Lenka’s sister) with mere minutes to spare.
As we wave goodbye, I feel like we are leaving old friends.
We settle in for our fast train (speeds up to 320 kms!) to Paris.