36 Hours in Strasbourg, France

We enjoyed a wonderful weekend in the Alsace region tasting new wines, delicious food and exploring storybook towns together! In just under 36 hours we were able to discover Strasbourg and the nearby Alsace region towns.

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Located 4 hours from Geneva, Alsace is a region in France that borders Germany and the Rhine Valley. It has significant influences from both the French and German cultures, as it has changed hands between Germany and France during its history. Strasbourg, the region’s capital city is the seat of the European parliament and home to a rich culture, cobbled streets, picturesque canals and a restaurant scene strongly influenced by Alsatian cuisine.

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Stay: The Sofitel Strasbourg Grande Ile is located in the center of the Grande Ile district, just steps away from the sights and sounds of Strasbourg’s cathedral, squares, and canals. The hotel’s rooms were spacious on European standards, the beds were beyond comfortable and the hotel’s concierges made our stay easy with their multiple recommendations ranging from restaurant reservations to wine tour itinerary.

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Eat: Hidden among the canals and gingerbread houses is a restaurant scene which makes Strasbourg one of the top food cities in France. You can find everything from three Michelin star restaurants to century old restaurants who serve regional cuisine. After reading about Fink’ Stuebel in the New York Times we booked reservations at this cozy, rustic restaurant. IMG_9666

As soon as we walked through the door I knew settling on just a few options would be difficult. The portions were huge and everything looked delicious. Clearly influenced by both France and Germany, the menu is best known for the chicken and veal cream dish served atop spatzel, decadent desserts and the local favorite – choucroute garnie. Choucroute garnie is more meat one person can stomach – piled high atop freshly made sauerkraut.

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After our run Saturday morning we warmed up with coffee and breakfast at Cafe Broglie, located just steps from our hotel. A traditional French cafe which dates back to 1781, their breakfast included pan au chocolate, freshly squeezed juice, breads and jams.

Last but not least, we enjoyed a Valentine’s Day meal which far exceeded our expectations at L’assiette du Poete. We were very hesitant when the concierge told us she booked us a table for their special rose themed tasting menu.

While the horrible service is proof that the restaurant is trying to do too much based on their current resources and staff, the food itself is phenomenal. Each of our six courses, ranging from the champagne and strawberry palate cleanser to the marbled house foie gras served with edible rose petals was executed perfectly. The veal, which was breaded in basil seeds and served over an eggplant puree was creative and unlike anything either of us have tried or even imagined creating. Last but not least, the dessert of whipped rose infused mascarpone served between three paper thin sheets of dark chocolate left me trying to figure out how to recreate it for our next dinner party.

I hope the restaurant can figure out the service aspect because the food deserves to shine! Regardless, I will still recommend this restaurant to any of our friends, with the caveat to not go there in a hurry but instead relax, enjoy time with a loved one or friends and order another glass of wine.

Exploring Strasbourg and the nearby wine region deserves a separate post, which I’ll share later this week!

Until then, it’s your turn, if you could visit any wine region which would you choose?

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Dining Dockside in Savannah

When our friends arrived in Savannah on Thursday, we wanted to greet them with a lovely, relaxing Low Country dinner. After doing some research we both agreed that Bonna Bella Yacht Club would be the perfect spot. Located a bit off the beaten path, Bonna Bella is accessible via both car and boat, just a 20 minute drive from downtown Savannah.

Want to bring a smile to the face of weary travelers who are kicking off vacation? Give them a menu that shows $4 drinks along with marsh views and sunshine.

The views from our large table were spectacular and within minutes we were toasting to the start of a long weekend and soaking in the sunshine.IMG_7330IMG_7312After our first round of beers, appetizers were in order. Luckily the Bonna Bella menu is quite extensive for a dockside restaurant, featuring 15 different appetizers. We chose things which could be easily shared including the peel & eat shrimp, crab fritters, shrimp skewers, and pork sliders. The only thing missing from their menu were hush puppies!

IMG_7316As I was more focused on talking than choosing an entree, I let the waitress choose. She highly recommended their mexi-cali style tacos which are available with pork, shrimp, fish, and vegetable. The tacos were a popular item with our group and when they arrived we all agreed that they were the right choice! The fried fish and blackened shrimp options were by far my favorite!

IMG_7337 After a relaxed dinner we headed over to the corn hole area where many of us tried our luck with the bean bag sacks. When we weren’t tossing we were sipping Sweet Water 420 and enjoying the perfect evening. IMG_7370IMG_7338IMG_7365If you’re visiting Savannah, or a local, head over to Bonna Bella Yacht Club for delicious food, inexpensive drinks and great views. The staff is friendly, the dining areas have large fans to keep the temperatures cool and the restaurant and bar don’t close until the last patrons are ready to leave.

 

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36 Hours in Paris

What a wonderful weekend we had in Paris!

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It was the perfect, quick 36-hour trip to the city of lights.

Bo and I decided to use AirBnB for the first time on this quick trip to Paris in hopes of saving a bit of money. As its peak tourist season in Paris many of the hotels in Champs-Elysees, where my aunt and uncle were staying, were over $300 per night. We found a studio apartment located just 10 minutes from their hotel for $150 per night! It had a few quirks, such as the below sparkly toilet lid, but was overall a perfect spot for our quick weekend and far cheaper than area hotels.

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We kicked off our weekend with an hour bike ride followed by champagne and cheese enjoyed waterside in a new to us neighborhood, Canal St Martin.

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The highlights of our trip took place on Saturday, a very full day spent with my aunt and uncle while  enjoying as much of Paris’ food, wine and culture as possible!

The Louvre

Our first stop was the Louvre, as my aunt and uncle hadn’t been to Paris since the famous I.M Pei Louvre pyramid opened in 1988!  

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We discovered two things about the Louvre this time around:

1) You can buy Louvre tickets in advance which will save you valuable time! You can’t pick them up at the Louvre but there are lots of ticket pickup spots around the city or, if you plan far enough in advance, they can mail them to your home or hotel!

2) The medieval Louvre exhibit, underneath the current Louvre, was a part of the Louvre we’d never seen before and really loved! On a crowded, Summer day it can provide welcome relief from the heat and the crowds.

Lunch

After the Louvre we enjoyed lunch, Parisian style, at Le Madeleine 7. I love sitting on the street sipping wine and enjoying a huge salad after a busy morning. Located between the Louvre and the Opera House, a bright red awning and huge salads caught our eye as we walked by the restaurant. It was still packed at 2pm and most people sounded and appeared as if they were locals, always a good sign.

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The Paris Opera House

After three trips to Paris in the past year, we finally checked the Paris Opera House off of our “must see” list! So many people and articles have recommended touring the Paris Opera house that this was the first thing we booked this trip! We bought tickets ahead of time for a self-guided tour and audio guides which allowed us to visit at any time yesterday versus being locked into a particular guided tour slot. The audio guide tour was 45 minutes in length and took us through the entire space including the grand theatre, the halls, and special exhibits!

Bo and I agree that this is one of Paris’ highlights. It  features architecture and design that doesn’t necessarily fit well in any category, but its utter exuberance will make you gasp upon entering at the grandness of the design and decor. Another random fact is that this was being built while the Americans were fighting the Civil War.

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Dinner and Drinks in Saint-Germain-des-Pres

A perfect counterpoint to the right bank of Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Pres reminds me of Gramercy and the West Village in New York City. Narrow, tree-lined streets with cobblestone roads meant more for pedestrians to walk, hand in hand, than for cars. Cafes are plentiful and many fit no more than 50 in their small spaces. The beautiful and perfectly maintained Luxembourg Gardens sit at one end while the Seine, Notre Dame and the Louvre are all within walking distance just north of the area.

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The concierge at my aunt and uncle’s hotel recommended Brasserie Lipp, a Paris restaurant which has been a favorite spot of Hemingway and many others over the years. Last night the restaurant was empty when we arrived at 8pm but packed and bustling by 9:30 when we left. I’d suggest this restaurant for a traditional French bistro dinner but wish our reservations had been for 9 or 10pm in order to get the full restaurant experience. They didn’t like cameras so I don’t have any pictures from dinner itself, but my steak was cooked perfectly rare, just the way I like it, and everyone loved each of their dishes.

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Following dinner Bo and I introduced Rusty and Randy to our favorite neighborhood and park, meandering down the small streets, laughing about our wonderful day and planning our next adventure. We felt so lucky to have this time with them while they were in Europe, blessed that Geneva is located so centrally.

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Later in the evening, after the Luxembourg Garden gates closed, we found ourselves not wanting the night to end. Instead of parting ways, we stumbled upon a wonderful, intimate bar, Le Mont Verdi,  where we enjoyed a few night caps. If you find yourself in the area, please go. The live piano, candlelight, book-lined bar, and perfect pours were the perfect ending to our day together in Paris. (source)

Have you been to Paris? If so, what is your favorite restaurant or spot in Paris?

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An Afternoon in Bratislava

For years, Bo and his friends have laughed about the movie EuroTrip. It’s a completely ridiculous, National Lampoon’s style movie from 2004 that is a play on the many stereotypes that come along with an American teenager trip to Europe. At one point in the movie, the characters accidently end up in Bratislava with only $5 in their pocket.

Today, while on the road from Prague to Vienna, when we saw a sign for Bratislava we knew we had to cross the border for an afternoon adventure. Not only did it serve as a perfect lunch stop but it also allowed us to visit Slovakia, a country none of us had ever visited. IMG_5284

When we arrived in Bratislava we went straight to Church of St. Elisabeth, more commonly known as the Blue Church. Located in Old Town, it’s light blue color and mosaics gave it the nickname, the Blue Church. Built in 1907, it is the newest of the churches we’ve seen thus far on our adventures. Unfortunately we could only peer through the gate as the church wasn’t open for visitors, but the inside looked gorgeous and decorated with similar blue hues as the outside. 114 IMG_5288 After lunch we headed to Cafe Verne which was highly recommended by Yelp, Four Square and Trip Advisor for the inexpensive yet delicious hearty local cuisine. The cafe features seating both indoor and outdoor on a small terrace overlooking the square. 126 Unfortunately it was a bit chilly to sit outside so we opted for a seat inside the cafe surrounded by locals enjoying lunch and talking across tables.

124 119We ordered the items most often recommended on Yelp which included the goulash, gnocchi and fresh lemonade. The lemonade, was refreshing and a perfect afternoon drink, made with very little sweetener and sparkling water which gave it an extra kick. The goulash was hearty and made with pork pieces instead of the traditional beef we’ve had in the past. The gnocchi while delicious was far too rich for my taste due to the heavy cream sauce and the bacon topping. 123 122 45 minutes later we found ourselves leaving Bratislava full of delicious food and ready to continue our adventure towards Vienna. 131 If you find yourself driving between Prague, Vienna, Budapest or any of the other nearby cities I highly recommend a stop in Bratislava as it is a perfect afternoon spot rich in history and featuring multiple restaurants and cafe in the Old Town. In fact, if we’d had more time we would have explored Devin Castle and Michael’s Gate.

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