The last year has been a challenging one to say the least and it has been quite a while since I last posted, shared or wrote any content on my site. We all run thru trials and tribulations and the last six months has had me stay away from writing. I am restarting and kicking the wheels on getting the ball moving here again and as a first post in almost a year I would like to share some time I spent last summer in the quaint small towns of northeastern France. Having been to Paris for a second time in the last few years we wanted to explore the countryside of France and ended up visiting the towns of Colmar, Ribeauvillé, Riquewihr and Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. Definitely a change from the city of love and the bright lights of Paris but lovely and charming in its own way and right. Beginning the second year of owning the Leica SL, this would just be another place to continue to put the test to the Leica SL.
The trip begins
We took the train from Paris to the city of Strasbourg as this was the most logical and closest way to arrive from Paris rather than driving all the way out. From here we rented a car as you would need to for driving and getting around the small towns of the area. Our original plan was just to drive to Colmar and spend the 3 days we had on one town but as I chatted with the lovely lady at the rental car she seemed to be perplexed. Why spend all 3 days just in one town when there was so much more to explore, and started ranting away on other towns. I appreciated the advice and started to decide that since we had a car why not try and pack in as much as we can and explore what else the other towns had to offer and off we went. The drive in from Strasbourg is a lovely one, so close to the border of Germany you start to see the influence of the architecture and the culture in the area. This is very much a mixed cultural experience and one that is very different from other cities of France. The first thing for those who want to explore the area is that this place is definitely a place for wine lovers with the vast open spaces of vineyards and chateau’s. Mountain ranges line the highway and every now and then you will find an old abandoned castle on the mountain tops, a peek into the history of how life used to be in the region.
Day 1 we decided on just staying in Colmar as this was where we booked our residence for the next three days and with spending a few hours on the train plus the hour or so drive from Strasbourg we did not want to push it on the first day. The first thing you start to realize walking around the city is how you start to feel the preservation of the historical culture and architecture of the town. French-German architecture with a colorful beauty of France, cobblestone lined streets and alleyways along with a small canal that lines the Colmar area. For those who want to spend the day relaxing and just having a nice lunch or dinner this is definitely a town I recommend. The charm of an old town with the lovely waterfront views of the canal that passes thru the town.
La lAUCH cANAL, cOLMAR, France
It is somewhat challenging to decide on which street or alley way to turn or take. Looking straight, left or right, all are interesting and you want to make the right choice instead of doubling back on the wrong one. But honestly you really can’t go wrong and my advice is to just go and explor and live with the decisions you make. Sometimes its amazing other times its not but that is part of the journey. The one thing you can do at any spot in town is sit down, relax and just enjoy the moment and life you have. My kids definitely did and loved to just sit and of course run around, but here is a shot of the kids just relaxing and hopefully taking it all in.
Kids relaxing in cOLMAR, France
A few of the things I like to photograph is interesting architecture, streets and furniture that give you a sense of space along with just general street photography. Walking around Colmar definitely does not lack this at all, its all you can ask for and I quickly knew that the decision to spend 3 days here would be fulfilling. Having the Leica SL with me as well did not disappoint in the photos I wanted to take, with my M lenses and manual focus as my tools I can just focus on the photos I wanted to take. I definitely loved the color and contrast of the roof of the church photo below, seeing how people spend so much time on details in just the type of things I appreciate the most. Just like how I love my cameras and the detail, craftsmanship and engineering that went into the Leica line of cameras, is the same way I appreciate the architecture and the culture of the town.
Church architecture and rooftop
Lavender Table Setting
Walking the streets of colmar
At the end of the day, we decided to put the camera down, unwind and have a nice relaxing meal outside on the streets of Colmar. Weather was a perfect 70 degrees, light humidity and just surrounded by other like minded people enjoying the time and ambiance with a nice night cap meal or glass of wine. Even the glasses had charm to it that it was a nice picture of how we capped and ended our day.
rEQUEWIHR, RIBEUAVILLE and cHATEAU DU HAUT
The second day of our stay would be a full day exploring the surrounding towns and seeing as much as we can. First stop was to visit the town of Ribeauville, where we would have both another town to explore along with a scenic view of the surrounding vineyards. We were initially thinking of just walking around the hilly area for the surrounding views but quickly noticed a train that would take us to a scenic overlook and decided to hop on, it was also a way to have the kids enjoy a small train ride while I focused on the views. Quickly, as we started to ascend the hills, I knew that this was a great decision. The overlook started to appear and I quickly knew that the views would be fantastic and there was no way we would have seen this view had we not taken the train. The trek alone would be too much for the kiddos we were with. Here is one of the shots that show the small town along with the surrounding vineyards that the eye can see, just beautiful.
Vineyards of Ribeauville, france
After the train ride, we would take a stroll around the town and again just another small city to find a spot and enjoy life at the slowest pace. No fast paced city life, no people trying to rush to get to the next spot, just a place where you find a spot to sit, eat or relax. My kind of place! The amount of detail, the preservation, the colors and the floral landscaping that you find throughout the town let you know that the people care and love their city and make the effort to make it as beautiful as possible. We would walk around but not spend as much time as we would like given we were still planning on visiting the castle and possibly Riquewihr as well if time permitted. We did take time appreciating the art work, buying some nougat and also the ensuring we grabbed some Foie Gras which was for surely a bit pricey but why not while we are here.
Entrance to Ribeauville
Next up we would drive up the mountain to visit Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg to see the overlook as well as the have an architectural tour of the Chateau. Parking is along the streets to the entrance of the area and definitely a hike up by itself given you will likely need to park quite a bit back. As you make your way to the entrance, you are greeted with a large entry way and a view from the bottom. We were so high up and appreciated the vistas and overlooks even thou it was a rainy, cloudy day. You pay your entrance as a way for the area to upkeep the castle and enter the grounds. As you enter you start to realize how this is going to be a hike up to the different levels of the building, the kids were able to enjoy counting how many steps they would need to take.
The Chateau was grand to say the least, very medieval but you knew how the rich and privileged lived back in the old days. Endless rooms of things that were probably unnecessary, but that is the life of the rich and famous, having too much than of what you possibly can ever want. You begin to marvel at the amount of stone, the craftsmanship of the pieces and just the overall views. The castle was for surely a sight to see, and you would find architecture and landscape views everywhere you look.
Kids enjoying the steps
Inside the Chateau
Views of the Mountain Ranges
To end our day we made a quick stop in Riquewihr where we found just another small quaint town with more color and architecture. We drove passed the town and decided to park and make a quick stop as we made our way back to the hotel, I mean why not even thou we were likely done for the day. We found more interesting shops but at the same time just interesting streets that we did not have the time to explore.
Shadows and light
In summary, we overly enjoyed our time in the northeastern area of France, a slow paced, culturally packed area for those who want to experience the pace of life in the beautiful world around. Wine lovers, landscape lovers and even people who love food and want to experience life to the fullest, I highly recommend this place. To the woman who advised us to explore a little bit more, we appreciate the fantastic advice. With my Leica SL with me side by side the whole way thru, there was no better tool to help me capture the experience and journey we took. Rain, sunshine or snow this camera just works and keeps going. Year two of my SL ownership kicks off with a bang!