Memories of Switzerland, Germany, and France October 2017 – Trip Report
My wife and I went on our delayed honeymoon in October 2017, and this is the trip report. We went to Basel, Switzerland; Lörrach, Germany; Colmar, France; Turckheim, France; Vitré, France; and Paris, France. It was my wife’s first trip to Europe, and we traveled with our 7 month old daughter. It was a very exciting trip for all of us. Even though this was my 5th trip to Europe, I’m still amazed at the amount of art, architecture, tasty food, interesting cultures, and natural beauty Europe has to offer. We left the USA on October 1 and came back October 12. I’m so glad my wife also enjoyed her trip, and we are already planning our next one with our two older girls in summer 2019.
Traveling with baby
It wasn’t that hard. We took a baby carrier, not a stroller, and it worked well with public transportation, seeing museums, etc. A stroller would have been difficult in crowds, on the metro, and on the many steps. However, with an older and heavier baby this might not have been the best option. We purchased diapers, food, and other baby supplies as we went. They are everywhere. We found baby items in every supermarket, so you don’t have to carry enough for the whole trip. We just went with 2 school type backpacks and a day bag so we were traveling very light. We didn’t take anything extra just diapers, wipes, clothes, the baby carrier, and baby food. All in small quantities, that we replenished every third day or so. We didn’t even bring toys. She had plenty of things to see and do. She loved just playing with a brochure or chocolate bars left on the hotel pillow, looking out the train window, and people watching from the baby carrier. Everyone was accommodating, and no one seemed to mind the baby. She smiles a lot and attracted quite a bit of attention. When at the Musée de l’Orangerie we look around and notice that no one is looking at the water lilies: they are smiling at the baby. Traveling with the baby wasn’t difficult and watching her enjoy the sights, sounds, and attention from people was a delight.
Trains are good. We traveled by train to get from place to place on this trip. Well, except of course, we flew from the US to Europe. I love traveling by train. It’s so easy. We just bought point to point tickets at the train stations. We got our longer and international tickets two days in advance each time. For shorter trips, we just went to the train station, after checking the schedule online, and bought a ticket to our destination. The trains are comfortable and go pretty much everywhere. We also enjoyed the convenience of a lunch counter and ate our lunch on the trains when it was time. Trains are the way to travel, they’re comfortable, on time, and quick.
Get ready for stairs and small rooms. We stayed two nights at all hotels, except Paris. There we stayed four nights. We booked a triple every time, but they are still small. We got an apartment hotel in Paris, with a kitchen and dining area. This was a nice feature since a market was close by. The kitchen saved on our Paris food cost, as eating out in Paris can be expensive. We had breakfast included with the room everywhere, except Paris. I recommend adding the breakfast where available. It’s usually worth the price just to get coffee. Every hotel had a nice selection of cheese, meats, pastry, butter, and fruit. Some had eggs and bacon, but expect cheese, cold meat, and pastry. We like hotels that are close to the sights and food. I would pick location over price and amenities. For more information on selecting a hotel in Europe see our article titled “How Can You Select a Hotel in Europe? – Travel Tips”.
Work less. We just went with two school type backpacks an a day pack. Even with baby stuff. The lighter the better. There are long walks between flights, long waits for trains, hills, lugging up onto racks, stowing in compartments, cobblestones, tunnels, and all manner of steps that you must traverse with your belongings in tow. I decided next time I’ll take fewer clothes. We didn’t take any toiletries beyond a toothbrush and toothpaste. They have what you need at the hotel, and if they don’t a trip to the pharmacy is an adventure. Same goes for bringing home souvenirs. Choose something small, or ship them home. Luggage can be heavy, packing light frees you up from the work of travel. This allows you to enjoy the wonder of first seeing a place when walking from the train station to the hotel, without the burden of lugging heavy bags.
Lovely tiled roofs, old timber framed buildings, medieval towers, and modern art. We arrived just before lunch and left our bags at the hotel. We went to the supermarket and got bread, salami, cheese, milk and a soda and went for a fabulous picnic on the Rhine. It was a little chilly, but we had the movement of the water adjacent to the beautiful old city and the food was yummy. We then walked to the Munster and the old town hall. The Munster has nice old worn stone with a colored tile roof. The interior smells old and makes me wonder of all the stories the stones hold. The old town hall is a beautiful shade of red with a tower and Frescos. The following day we went to the Kunstmuseum. They have a very large collection of modern art that we enjoyed. Luckily, we were there when an exhibit on Chagall was on display. That was particularly interesting. The new building is a nice design as well. You can easily walk around the old town, and the trolleys are convenient. The hotel gave us a public transport pass (I think all of them do), and it was handy. Basel is easy to navigate, everyone was friendly, and the crowds were few. We went for the afternoon to Lorrach.
Best memory – picnic on the Rhine: my wife’s first meal in Europe.
Peaceful castle with amazing views especially on a sunny day. We went to see the old castle Burg Rötteln and to have German food. German food wasn’t possible as I neglected to check the calendar for German Holidays. Oct. 3 was reunification day, so everything was closed except a fast food chicken burger place. The bus schedules were also limited. We had difficulty communicating our destination to the driver (my German was terrible) and determining the correct bus due to the limited service. The bus driver finally just took us to the train station, and recommended we go to another town. So we took a cab from the train station. The castle was beautiful. It’s a ruinous castle on a hill with a small museum. Great views of the surrounding countryside can be seen from the castle towers. I enjoyed all the crumbled stones and imagining what it was like in the days of old. Since it was a holiday, there were families enjoying the castle. No one was about in town near the train station.
Best memory – “No, I don’t speak English! This is Deutschland!”
It’s a fairy tale town with beautiful old buildings and flowers everywhere. Every picture taken looks like a postcard. We stayed in a beautiful old timber framed hotel on the Grand Rue. It sure was nice to be in the middle of the old town. Everything is within easy walking distance and around every corner is a delight. We took a small boat cruise through La Petite Venice on the first afternoon. It was peaceful and the views were amazing. This was a good orientation and introduction to the town. We went to the Unterlinden on our first full day. It has very nice selection of medieval through modern art. We ate at the museum café, and it was very tasty with a view to an inner apple orchard. We went shopping at the Monoprix; it’s a grocery store and department store. We liked seeing the everyday consumer goods the French have compared to ours. We got some French scarves for the kids. We did do the shopping in the old town as well. There’s many shops to visit so bring shopping funds. We also enjoyed a trip to the Market (Marche Couvert) for a nice selection of regional food. We got cheese, marmalade, beer, and baguettes. We ate dinner across the street from the hotel, and I tried the flammekueche a sort of creamy cheese, onion, and lardon pizza. Yum! Colmar is full of lovely old buildings and crocked lanes. It’s easy to walk around the old town, there’s a delightful view around every corner, and there are shops a plenty.
Best memories – park bench cheese and baguette, and door for ants. “They’re Norwegian!”
It’s a picturesque walled city at the base of the mountains. We took the train to spend an afternoon in Turckheim. It is an explosion of color, lots of window boxes with magenta flowers, yellow orange and pink timber framed buildings, green tiled church towers, and brown gates. Lovely city. We had a snack at a pastriere, where I left my sunglasses. The town was absent of traffic and crowds. Nice place for a peaceful afternoon walk.
Best memories – lost sunglasses, and beautiful flowers.
Medieval buildings and a castle. After our going and going in the Alsace, it was refreshing to be in a small city with not that much to do. You can walk around the entire old town in 45 min. The castle is really what we went to see. We also had great food in the restaurant next to our hotel thanks to the receptionist recommendation. The butter in Brittany is so good. On the first evening, we walked around the old town went in a couple shops and had some fantastic caramel from a chocolate shop. On our first full day we went to the Saturday market. We really enjoyed looking at all the available farm fresh foods. We got some French olives and ate them on the way to the castle. We arrived to the castle at the listed open time and no one was there. So we waited for about 45 minutes after opening time, and they opened. We took the self-guided tour, and for most of the tour, we had the castle all to ourselves. The baby even got to get down to play in the empty castle tower top, just under a cylindrical timber framed roof. We went shopping for clothes later than evening and got a toy unicorn for the baby. The shops were very nice with reasonably priced goods. We especially enjoyed the caramel; I wish I had some now.
Best Memories – baby crawling in the castle tower, evening graveyard stroll, caramel, butter, milk, and alley grapes on the way to market.
The most romantic city. We arrived in Paris in the afternoon and made our way to Abbesses metro station as we stayed in Montmarte. The steps are many; the elevator was under refurbishment. Checked into the hotel and went to Champ de Mars to see the Eiffel Tower. The flowers were lovely and so were the views. We didn’t go up the tower but enjoyed it from below. We then took an evening cruise on the Seine. The cruise was cold, but the city lights after dark were worth it.
The first full day in Paris we spent the morning at the Louvre. It’s huge, so we only saw the highlights. We had lunch at the Café in the Opera House and took a guided tour of the Opera. We even had time to shop for fashion across the street as we arrived early. We should have gotten that coat. We loved the guided tour it was very informative, and the building is beautiful. They even had information about the Phantom. Then we took the Metro to Notre Dame. We walked around the interior to take in the vastness of the cathedral. We lit a prayer candle for the kids and got some souvenirs at the cathedral gift shop. After the long day, we took the funicular up to see the view from Sacré Cœur. Amazing!
Versailles was the next day. We arrived early to beat the crowds, but there was a strike in the morning and some talk of not opening at all. We waited all morning until the gates opened. We took a quick tour of the palace, it was super crowded – so not peaceful. The palace is spectacular every inch is ornate. It’s hard to take in all the detail. Then we spent the rest of the day in the gardens. The flowers are amazing. The gardens are exquisite. It was musical gardens day. It’s just music from speakers throughout the gardens. A little creepy actually. We also had lunch at the Café near the lagoon. That was very nice. We toured the Grand Triannon. It was very elegant, but without the crowds of the palace, so we could enjoy the tour and take our time. The Queens Hamlet was also nice with little architectural follies, and my wife enjoyed seeing the farm animals. We walked a lot and were very tired by the end of the day. It’s a trek back to the palace from the Queen’s Hamlet, so we rode the mini train. However, the walk is still long to the train station from the palace.
The next day was spent at two great impressionist art museums. We toured the Musée d’Orsay in the morning. Just the van Gogh’s alone are worth the visit. This is my favorite museum! I love every piece, and the building, an old train station turned museum, is very interesting. You can see Art Nouveau, Impressionism, and post impressionism masterpieces. We also had lunch at the museum café, near the back escalators. It was a good place to take a break. The early afternoon was spent at the smaller Musée de l’Orangerie and the Tuileries. This museum has more than the famous water lilies by Monet. There are some other great impressionist paintings below the oval rooms as well. Later that afternoon we went to Luxembourg gardens. We sat on the lawn with the view of the palace and the gardens. This was a very relaxing and great way to end our trip. My wife loved taking pictures of the flowers, and the baby got to play on the grass. We also got two coffees at the café in the gardens. That was very convenient.
Best memories – lounging on the grass at Luxembourg gardens, baby’s reaction to the fountains at
Versailles, and selfie stick ladies view usurp at Champs de Mars.
This was an amazing trip.
I especially enjoyed all of the good food. Bread, butter, chocolate, and milk all taste wonderful. Breakfast was something to get up for every day. I loved watching my wife experience and enjoy the art, food, and even the architecture. My baby girl won’t remember the trip, but my wife and I will. Travel can not only be fun, but inspiring. It gives me the opportunity to view the world from a different perspective. To be open to new ideas. To be inspired by the art and rich culture that Europe and the world has to offer. Those memories and inspirations you get from just a couple of weeks traveling can last a lifetime. I can’t wait to go to Europe again! I want to see the Alps, the Mediterranean, towers, castles, art, gardens, and taste great food. I have plans.