This was the day we were supposed to leave Italy and drive to France, to spend a few days in Colmar. Seeing as I was having SO much fun in Italy though, I decided to spend the afternoon there and leave late, and arrive in France late instead. It was good that we wound up staying as we got well acquainted with some birds, ate good pizza, and had a properly tearful farewell to the motherland. :,-(
We started the day with another nice breakfast at the B&B with plenty of Italian coffee (espresso mmm). After packing and getting ready for the trip, we packed up the car, checked out of the B&B (very sad to leave), and headed back to Bellagio.
We walked around enjoying the town and the nice weather, took pictures, and did some more shopping. I spent a good half hour deliberating over various olive oils and vinegars, and even got some vacuum sealed lake perch to bring home. An old man in one of the shops kept grabbing my arm and looking at one of my tattoos and admiring it, which was a little surprising as I figured the older generation might not appreciate ink like mine, but I guess that was a silly assumption. 🙂
At one point we saw this sweet old BMW R75 from WWII. It turns out the owner was the very same shop owner who had been admiring my tattoo earlier. The bike was operational and he rode it by us as he left town.
I also poked my head into the shop I had been to the day before with the missing euros fiasco (quite embarrassed I may add). I had prepared an apology ahead of time that I translated into good Italian, and I had the lady read it. She was overjoyed actually to see me, and asked me if I had found my missing money. I said I had, and that it was my miscalculation and I had found it at home, and she seemed very happy. Then we hugged and wished each other well, and I felt better about the whole thing. In retrospect, I probably will still be a wary traveler, hahaha. But I’m definitely more trusting of the good people around Lake Como. <3 Italy!!
Next was more shopping where I spent way too much money on consumables for friends and family, My companion was joking that customs is going to think I’m opening up a store with how much food I’m bringing home.
Another fun thing was everyone thought I was from Italy. Also overall everyone was just so darn friendly, I have never in my life been surrounded by so many friendly people. Even the old ladies who would sit out on their porches and balconies, and watch us do stupid things like make absurd K-turns in tight alleys. They would still smile and wave and we’d exchange a buongiorno and a chuckle and all was well with the world. It truly is an unbelievable place.
After shopping, we decided to get some pizzas and go and eat next to the lake. I got a pizza with prosciutto and mushrooms, and my companion got salami pizza again. (Sausage Counter – 16 – you bet I tasted this)
We walked the few blocks to the lake and sat right on the water, dangling our feet off the boat launch, and enjoying the breaking waves and clean smell of the lake.
Eventually a pigeon wandered by and we started feeding it. Then a family of baby ducks came. Next a seagull, a raven, some other kind of bird I’m not sure the name of, some male ducks, and a few chickadees and sparrows. It was like feeding time at the zoo, and we had a blast feeding the birds with our extra pizza crusts. The ducks ate right out of our hands, and the seagull would jump up in the air to get the food. We made sure every bird was fed equally, even though the seagull was trying to bully the other birds. We sat there at least an hour and a half, losing track of time and having fun with the birds.
Finally, sadly, we felt it was time to get on the road to France, so we walked back to the car and said a final goodbye to the town. At this point I was dead set on not leaving, and teared up a little that we had to. While I had tried to keep an open mind the whole time on the trip, Italy had clearly become my favorite, and was the first place I felt like was home since I was a kid.
I took many pictures as we drove out to say goodbye to Italy 🙁
The ride to France was pretty uneventful, we wound up going through Switzerland briefly, and then going into France.
After we left the Alps, the landscape began to flatten and turn to rolling green hills. While it was pretty, I missed the mountains. Eventually we passed the border and didn’t have very much farther to go, at which point it flattened out completely. The road from the Swiss border to Colmar was actually pretty ugly, with a lot of power plants, and industrial looking things, plus terrible graffiti on lots of the overpasses. Between that and the landscape, I felt like I was back in the United States. It looked like New York or New Jersey, no shit. Not that parts of it weren’t pretty, it’s just.. not very different from what you can find in the Northeast.
So I came to the conclusion that I flew all the way to Europe to end up in New Jersey. We had a few laughs over the thought.
I decided not to judge Colmar by the road leading to it, as I was sure it was a beautiful historic town once you got into it’s heart. I was having a hard time though, as Switzerland and Italy were both far more beautiful in the landscape department, so I was getting slightly disappointed in France’s countryside. I had it romanticized in my head that it would be super charming, and it didn’t live up to expectations. As we got closer to Colmar, there were some pretty hills and some older architecture spattered through them, but it was largely flat, with a lot of farmlands.
Finally we arrived in Colmar, and to our apartment, which was right on Quel del Poissants, in Little Venice. The architecture was indeed charming, and I was happy that we had arrived in this ‘storybook’ town that did have a lot of beauty and history. Still, though, I felt a little underwhelmed coming from Italy, and while I was grateful to be there, I was struggling to not compare it too harshly. Also, the sun had disappeared, and a gloomy drizzly rain had started.
In any case, aside from the local architecture, I felt the highlights would be the food and wine, which I was very much looking forward to. The Alsace region is best known for Bretzels (pretzels), pastry, a special version of pizza with Bechamel, lardons, and other things, and of course schnitzel and other German influenced tasties. For those into wine, there’s two must-try ones in this region, the Riesling and the Gewurztraminer. The region is the driest in France and is known for having amazing soil and climate for the wines. In our time there I wanted a taste of both the traditional Alsace region foods, as well as some classic french foods. Being a foodie I’ve had my share of French cuisine, but never actually in France so I wanted to get a little of that in there of course. I knew I would be in for many sausages over the next few days! *drool*
After arriving we unpacked and chilled out a little to unwind from the road. Our host had left a fresh baked cake for us in the kitchen, one of the special regional cakes called a Gugelhupf. We decided to save that for later.
Having arrived so late, by the time we were done relaxing, only a few places were open serving food past 10pm (which was in direct contrast to Italy, who seems to serve food all night).
We walked around and around looking for a place to eat and eventually stumbled on a pizzeria. How ironic we thought, that we just left Italy and here we are eating at a pizzeria again. Fortunately though, this one served some of the regional Alsace foods, so we got a cheese plate (this turned out to just be Italian cheese doh!), and two plates of the local stew, which had beef, pork, potatoes, carrots, and broth. I also ordered some Gewurztraminer, which was delicious. Come to think of it, I had a hard time pronouncing it, maybe that’s why our server was pissy. How dare the stupid American order a wine she can’t pronounce properly! Hah.
We opted to sit outside since it had stopped drizzling, and I was imagining the nice fresh air as we dined in the warm evening. However, and this is my fault because I knew but totally forgot, the outside dining in France is like being smoke bombed since it’s perfectly acceptable for the smokers to sit outside and eat and smoke. Also, apparently EVERYONE IN FRANCE SMOKES. Everyone.
So for an ex-smoker who still has the urge sometimes, it is both simultaneously disgusting and infuriating, especially when I’m eating. As soon as we got our cheese plate, three tables around us lit up, so we were in the center of a smoke cloud. I thought about asking to move inside, but the server seemed a bit irritated by us to begin with although I’m not sure exactly why as we were very polite and well-mannered, so I didn’t risk pissing him off as I didn’t feel like getting a booger in my stew.
Despite the smoke, dinner was very enjoyable and we had a nice relaxing meal, and a good giggle at the high population of smokers in the area, which was such a sharp contrast to everywhere else we had been.
After dinner, we went back to the apartment to crash and get ready for the next day.