Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eurotrip 2011, Day 16 Part 2: A Night Out in Frankfurt

We took the subway under the river and exited at the very edge of the Sachsenhausen district, deciding to grab a few drinks before finding the restaurant Erna wanted to try. The first place we stopped was basically smack in the middle of a neighborhood and technically not in the truly "historic" part of Sachsenhausen, but it hey, it was close to the train station and we were ready for a drink!
Erna and I
Steve and I - see what I mean about this place being in a *neighborhood*?
It took us a bit but we finally found official "Alt Sachsenhausen", but find it we did :)
Map on the brick/cobblestone road in Alt Sachsenhausen
These cute little golden apples were all over the roads of Sachsenhausen
It's something like picturesque - or at least certain parts of it are - in the daylight ;)
House Weissbier at one of the Sachsenhausen cafes
After enjoying a couple of drinks we made our way back toward Schweizer Platz to find dinner. The restaurant was called Zum Gemalten Haus and it is located at Schweizer Strasse 67. The food here is very traditional and the setting is really neat. We sat outside and enjoyed our meal in a little open courtyard.
Zum Gemalten Haus, Frankfurt
I had the frankfurters in Frankfurt!
We all enjoyed some beer...
...and Steve was brave enough to have the tongue for dinner! Yes, that's right, tongue. He actually said it was pretty good :)
After a leisurely dinner - which was also a great chance to rest our feet - we headed back toward the main part of Sachsenhausen for a few more beers before catching the subway back to the other side of the river. I have to be honest and say that this was above all an interesting experience, though not one I'm sure I would repeat again. Sachsenhausen is, well, gritty. Not necessarily dangerous gritty...but gritty. Each bar only serves a couple kinds of beer at most, as it was all over eastern Europe while we were there. Prices are okay - probably a bit hiked up because it's such a touristy area - but most of the pubs are pretty grungy. I was honestly okay with all of that, but what we hadn't really expected was that there would be literally dozens and dozens of bachelor and bachelorette parties celebrating in Sachsenhausen on a Saturday night in mid August.

As I mentioned in my post about our night out in Vienna, European bachelor and bachelorette parties are...different. In that they are somehow even louder and more obnoxious than any bachelor or bachelorette party that I've encountered in the States, plus they want to sell or trade things to/with you. Erna and Steve and I spent a good hour or two trying to avoid them before finally giving up and making our way to the train station at Schweizer Platz again. Erna would be meeting up with the friend she was staying with in the Zeil and Steve and I got a bar suggestion from them before we went our separate ways.

Needless to say, there wasn't much open in the Zeil even though it was only a bit after midnight on a Saturday night. The place Erna's friend suggested was a little hookah bar called Mosaiic and though we didn't smoke hookah, it was a cool little place - practically no one there and great comfy seats and a very...pretty atmosphere. I'm seriously not sure how else to put it.
Mosaiic hookah bar in the Zeil, Frankfurt
Final "gratuitous picture of ourselves" from our Eurotrip!
We left Mosaiic after an hour and made our way in the general direction of our hotel, stopping to grab one more beer at a sort of lounge across the street. That was another, err, interesting experience, because to be honest I'm not sure that this place was JUST a lounge. I'll refrain from naming it publicly for that very reason ;)

It was well after 2 AM before we were back in our room and we had to be up to catch an 11 AM flight. A friend had warned me that the Frankfurt airport can be very time consuming and because of that I set the alarm for an unGodly hour (despite a late morning flight)...though I'll save the harrowing story of our trip home for another entry ;)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Eurotrip 2011, Day 16 Part 1: More Frankfurt Wanderings

It was a Saturday, we were in Frankfurt, and - to top it all off - we were on our last day of a whirlwind tour of Europe. Erna arrived fairly early and she, Steve and I made our way through the Romerplatz again and all the way to the river. We crossed the Main and wandered up and down for a bit, even pausing to sit and drink a refreshing Apple Wine Spritzer before crossing back to visit the Frankfurt Am Main Tower.
Pedestrian bridge crossing the Main
European Central Bank
One of the views of Frankfurt from the top of the Main Tower
Erna and I at the top of the Main Tower :)
Frankfurt's old opera house
After a few hours of more Frankfurt wanderings, I had one thing to say - I was hot. Seriously, the only truly warm-weather clothes I had packed were dirty from Marseille; I'd logically assumed that Frankfurt's temperatures would be in the low- to mid-70s at best. But no - both the day we arrived and our full day there topped out in the mid-80s, and let me tell you that sun was beating down. Thankfully I had one sundress left that wasn't completely disgusting, and the three of us ran back to the hotel so I could change in the hopes of being more comfortable.

At this point we were also just a bit hungry, but didn't want to eat a huge lunch as Erna had plans to bring us to a nice restaurant near the Sachsenhausen district for dinner. Our hotel was right near Konstablerwache and the Zeil shopping district, though, and apparently on Saturdays there is a huge farmer's market there! Honestly we could have spent all afternoon just trying sausages and cheeses and desserts and of course...wine and beer. Steve and I did share a bratwurst and this amazing thing called a "honey waffle". Seriously, it was delicious.
Can't you tell how much we loved it?
From there it was a quick stop at the ATM to make sure we had enough cash to go out that night. And I have to say...the ATMs in Germany amuse me. Why? Because they yell at you. No kidding!
See what I mean? Are the exclamation points really necessary?
By now it was mid-afternoon and after an unsuccessful attempt to visit the botanical gardens (we could not tell if we were in the wrong place or if they were simply randomly closed) we decided hey, let's go to Sachsenhausen and drink some more!

Next up: an extremely interesting night out in Frankfurt. Trust me on that.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Eurotrip 2011, Day 15: Marseille to Frankfurt

After struggling through the subway stations in Marseille to get from the St. Charles train station to our hotel, I insisted that we take a cab back to St. Charles to get on the bus to the airport. Thankfully everything went quite smoothly and even more thankfully, our flight was direct to Frankfurt - our very last stop before finally heading home.

Our trip to Frankurt was uneventful, and when we arrived we were able to take a train directly to the stop closest to our hotel. The only issue we ran into was that our hotel was situated in a strange spot - not exactly close to the train/subway station, but because of exactly where it was there was no good way to get a cab there, either. Plus the road curved and that combined with the hotel address made it a bit confusing. Obviously we eventually found it, but let's just say it was very hot, our bags were very heavy, and we ended up taking the long way around. Oops!

After dropping our things off in our room and freshening up, we decided to have a late lunch/early dinner and then wander around the city a bit. We ate at a little bistro/bar called Solberfass'je, located at Grosse Friedberger Strasse 8 - just near the corner of that road and the Kunstablerwache. At first glance it looks small and honestly a bit dingy, but the server - who I'm fairly certain was also the owner - was great, the prices were right and the food was amazing. A definite recommendation on our part, should you ever be in Frankfurt!

We finished eating and commenced our wandering. Though I had looked up some "top things to do in Frankfurt" we really had no solid plans to follow the little list I created. It was still fairly early and we not only stumbled into a random renaissance fair, but also got to see the Romerplatz, the Romer itself and the Frankfurt Dom! We even hung out on the grass by the Main for a while, just enjoying the warm sun.

Sign for the Renaissance Fair that we stumbled across
Beautiful historic Frankfurt
The Romer
Frankfurt Dom
Roman ruins near the Dom
Hanging out by the Main
I'd love to say that we did all sorts of exciting stuff, but really it was just wandering...a bit of relaxing...seeing random sights and eating a lot of gelato :) We ended up going back to the hotel and napping for two hours before eating a cheap and simple dinner at a Kebap and then collapsing back into bed. (What can I say, we were exhausted from our final night in Aix/Marseille!) However, we were mostly excited for our last full day of the trip because we were going to be spending it with our friend Erna! Originally from Germany, we met her while she was working in the US a few years ago and it had been far too long since she had returned home and we had last seen her. Stay tuned for my last few Europe entries, folks!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Hotel Review: Hotel Carre Vieux Port

Pictures of Hotel Carre Vieux Port Marseille, Marseille
This photo of Hotel Carre Vieux Port Marseille is courtesy of TripAdvisor
We chose the Hotel Carre Vieux Port because the price was right, and we were pleasantly surprised by how great of a value it was. Though the lobby isn't much to look at and the lift is scary at best (the tiniest I've been in, even compared to dozens of other European lifts I've experienced), everything was clean, the room was a decent size by European standards, and the front desk staff was very pleasant. You can pay a little extra to have breakfast "included" but we chose to do our own thing, and the bakery right next door makes delicious croissants!

Marseille itself is a bit gritty, but the Vieux Port is probably one of the best places to stay and the Hotel Carre is located only a block from the main drag. If you have to go to Marseille, I definitely suggest this hotel.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eurotrip 2011, Day 14 Part 2: Aix-en-Provence

Once we arrived back in Aix, we had a few hours to kill before the little concert we were supposed to check out. We did some shopping - there are plenty of quaint little stores in this city, especially in the "old town" area - and decided it was about time for dinner. At this point it was probably 6 PM, maybe 6:30, and who would have thought that the majority of restaurants/cafes in Aix stop serving food between like 5 and 9 PM! Seriously, we stopped at a few cafes only to be told they weren't serving food at the moment, and when Steve tried to ask some locals where we could get dinner they told us to go to McDonald's! I was honestly so offended that I may have used some choice nasty words, but that's besides the point.

Thankfully, we finally found a little cafe on the Cours Mirabeau that was still serving food. To be honest it wasn't an amazing dinner or anything, but we did sit there for quite some time. I enjoyed a carafe of wine and read on my Kindle; Steve mixed some pastis and did some people watching. I will say that the Creme Brulee was very good!

And then it was finally time for the concert :) It was really just a couple of local bands playing in a courtyard in the old part of the city, but pretty much everyone there was local and it was such an amazing experience...all thanks to Steve's [former] host sister!

The guitarist was one of Laura's friends, he was great ;)
Me, Steve and Laura (not the most flattering picture of me, ugh)
Steve and I at the concert
When the concert was over we still had another hour and a half or so to kill before the last shuttle back to Marseille. Honestly...we had been drinking and it was not a very good idea to give ourselves no leeway with the shuttles. We should have planned on at least trying for the second to last one, but...we didn't. And we ended up having to run across half of the city to make the last shuttle.

These are our sweaty crazy drunk HOLY CRAP WE ACTUALLY MADE IT TO THE VERY LAST SHUTTLE faces :)
So yeah, we made it to the last shuttle - just barely - and were back at the hotel in time to grab a beer from the lobby bar before going to bed. We even got a call from Steve's parents right after we made it back to the room! Good timing on that one :) Unfortunately - because though Marseille left a lot to be desired, I obviously really enjoyed Aix - we had to go to the airport the next morning and head on to our very last Eurotrip stop...Frankfurt!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Eurotrip 2011, Day 14 Part 1: Marseille

On our second full day in France, we had originally planned on seeing as much of Marseille as possible. Not so unfortunately (haha) we ended up with spur-of-the-moment plans to return to Aix and attend a free outdoor concert with Laura and her friends. That meant an early wake up call and a long hot morning of wandering around the city before catching a 3 PM-ish shuttle to Aix. We had purchased a multi-day public transport pass and boyyyy did we get our use out of it...all in this one morning/afternoon!

We even took the buses, which I honestly don't suggest unless you're traveling with someone who knows what he or she is doing. And if it's summer...well, they are hot and smelly and crowded and by the time we headed back to our hotel to change and freshen up for Aix I felt nothing short of disgusting. Heh.

The Basilica
View of the harbor and Notre Dame on the hill in the distance
Steve outside of one of the houses he lived in during his year in Marseille :)
I had really wanted to go to Chateau d'If and Notre Dame, but in the end we only had time for one or the other, not both. And because the ferry for Chateau d'If was about to leave right when we got back to the Vieux Port area, well, Chateau d'If it was! The ferry was something like 10 or 15 Euro per person if you were only going to Chateau d'If...but what they did not tell you is that once you arrive at the island you have to pay another 5 Euro (I think) per person to actual see anything. Kind of annoying that the only places this was announced was in tiny lettering at the bottom of a brochure that you may or may not pick up (we didn't), and at the gate on the island after you've already gotten off the ferry and hiked up a set of stairs. Ah well, lessons learned and all that.

I will say this - that ferry had some pretty darn amusing, err, signage:
"When boarding, I slap you in the face with my ticket!"
"When the ferry is moving I touch my significant other in inappropriate places."
I don't even know WHAT to say about this one.
Finally we arrived at Chateau d'If and commenced exploring. I'm pretty sure we may have hiked off to ends of the island that they don't really want tourists to explore, but to be honest the ferry timing is not that great and once you're out there you are stuck. It was definitely cool to see this famous old fortress, which was a big part of Alexandre Dumas' story The Count of Monte Cristo.

(Plus the views were great)
More of the Friouls
Hamming it up. It's what I do best.

We ended up having to wait a good 30 minutes for a ferry, because one stopped at the island but was so full of people going to the other Frioul island that it had to drop them off and come back to get us. We spent the time trying to stay out of the sun and watching a little old French man hang out on the dock and fish. I'm pretty sure he just took the ferry out to literally just hang out, fish, and talk to tourists. Too funny. (And too cute)

We finally got on a ferry and headed back to the port. There were some great views of Chateau d'If on the ride, but unfortunately the ferry was so crowded and it was so frowned upon for you to walk around while it was moving that I didn't really get any. I did catch a decent shot of Notre Dame, though :)

And then it was time to make a quick stop back at the hotel and get ready for our last night in France!