Ontario Historical Plaques – D.A. Johnston

We have been travelling a little more through the backwoods of Southwestern Ontario in the past year and keep noticing these little blue and gold ‘Historical plaques’ along the roadside. In the past, we would have sped along past and said to each other, “we don’t have enough time today. Let’s try to remember to stop by the next time we drive past.” Well, that someday is today. We are going to try and make a conscious effort to stop and read and learn more about all the incredible people, places and events that helped to make up this province in past years so that we can be what we are today. Some good news stories. Some not so much. But altogether, they helped to knit the fabric of our culture, and ourselves.

Today, we travelled to Petrolia for a funeral visitation. On the way home, we noticed a small sign ‘Historical Plaque – 2km’. After a bit of searching, (there are 4 different directions we could take), we came to a small Parkette with a tourism map, a small picnic area and, in a small descript area, the Blue and gold bronze plaque.


In the small village of Rutherford, Ontario, you can find this plaque on the corner of Cty Road 1 and 21. The birthplace of D.A. Johnston, co-founder and first president of the Kiwani’s Clubs.

D.A. Johnston was born in 1874, and had moved to Detroit in 1892. The Kiwani’s were founded in downtown Detroit in 1914 by a group of businessmen.

The group was initially called the “Benevolent Order of Brothers”, but this was soon changed to “Nunc-Keewanis” (from the Otchipew Indian language). Roughly translated, the phrase means “to express one’s self”.

Rutherford is a small farming community in Dawn-Euphemia township in Southwestern Ontario.


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Climbing Masada

This seems a very appropriate blog to re-post – Walking and wandering in the desert, in life


Stories from Israel and Palestine

The sun was still hours away from rising when Andrew and I brushed our teeth, tied our hiking shoes and made our way down to the lobby of our hotel in Arad. By 4:30 a.m., most of our fifty-person group had already been up for hours or hadn’t slept at all, still jet-lagged from the flight the day before. We filed onto the bus yawning and saying good morning to the tour mates we had only met sixteen hours ago when we landed in Tel Aviv.

It was our first morning in Israel, and we were going to climb Masada.

Rugged and remote, the Judean fortress of Masada sits on top of a lonely cliff in the east of the Negev desert, overlooking the Dead Sea and beyond to the mountains of Moab.

Our bus driver, Shimshon Solomon, drove us through the switchbacks in…

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My encounter with the Monarchs!

Living in Essex County has its benefits at this time of the year.  There are alot of birds and other winged creatures that are migrating south.  Although at the time of this writing, Hurricane Harvey just finished and Hurricane Irma is about the reach the Florida coast, and there was just an 8.1 earthquake in Mexico yesterday, so I am not sure that these creatures will find much when they arrive in their final destination this winter.

We have hiked often through Point Pelee National Park.  But when you are looking for monarch butterflies, going to the tip is your best option.  We walked south on the west side of the tip, but did not see any butterflies.  A bit disappointed, but we continued to see what the very tip of Point Pelee looks like at this time.

The tip is GONE!!  Even the post that you can put your camera on to take pictures to post to social media is gone – many of the trees are gone.  The water is definitely higher on the lake than anytime in many, many years.

We next ventured up the east beach of the tip to see if there might be monarchs roosting there.  Wind coming from the NE.  Although we could not find any, the scenery is always amazing.  God is at work.

Time to head back down the trail.  As we walked north on the west-side trail, a photographer was down the path.  Proper etiquette in the park is to stop/stand still and quietly so that you do not disturb the subject that they are trying to capture, so we just waited for him to get the shot.  That’s when it happened!!  He quietly called us over and there they all were…..it looked like hundreds of them were gathering in a cluster on the south side of a tree deep in between the paths.  It was incredible.  I have been coming to PPNP in September for the last 8 years, looking for monarch butterflies the way it has been described, or have seen on video.  But here I was, in the middle of the woods, with all these beautiful creatures fluttering over me and roosting in the trees. Words and even video cannot describe how wonderful this moment was.  See video link: Monarchs at PointPeleeNP

For more info on the Monarch Butterfly: Point Pelee NP – Discover the Monarch

A monarch ‘counter’, Darlene, came by and filled us in on the event.  These butterflies would stay here until early in the morning and, once the temperature reached about 10-12C, they would start to open their wings and take off to eventually make their way across the lake.  She also said that, by her count, there were about 2,000 monarchs roosting (or clustering) in this tree.  ONGELOOFLIJK!!


The sun was going down and it was time to leave the park.  To be able to experience something that only a few people ever get to see was awesome.  I already knew then and there that I would be back in the morning to watch them depart.

Saturday, September 9 – 6:00am – I was up early – Darlene, the Monarch Butterfly counter and a volunteer at PPNP, suggested that, if we were going to see them take off we should be in the park by 7.00hr.  A little bit of FOMO set in – I was at the park gate at 6:50am and I was already the 3rd car in line waiting for them to open up.  I could only drive as far as the Visitor Centre and took the first shuttle to the tip at 7am.  WOW!!  Who would think that they have someone running the shuttle train that early.  I was relieved as I had visions of hiking all the way down there.

But, once I got to the tip, and back to “THE TREE” from last night, I could see no butterflies.  Terribly disappointed.  Had they already left, like the snowbirds, for the south?  IMG_20170909_0719387At least I could watch the sunrise at the Tip!  Doing a quick walk around the whole tip, I made my way back to wait for the shuttle train.  As I was about to get on, Darlene was getting off.  I told her that they were already gone.  “That happens.  I will go down anyway to check if there are any lingering”, she said.  I followed along.  Who knows??  Maybe I had missed something or they had moved to a different tree.    I am so glad that I did – there they were, hiding in the trees branches, camoflaged to look just like the leaves – you really need to know what you are looking for, the slightest movement in the branches, a ‘shiver’ before their wings open up to display their beautiful black and orange accoutrement.  The display was very different from the evening before.  One-by-one, they would open their wings, and take off – looking for the right airstream to take them across – today, the airstream was almost 100m in the air, so you could see them try to take off on the west side, then fly back onto the land.  Then try again. What lessons we can learn from the Monarch –  Tenacity!  Perserverance!  Determination!   21430558_1925512397718184_4800827147246900409_n21462307_1925512237718200_6821603053019041767_n

The analogy of this morning was not lost on me at all.  We wander around in this modern day world, looking for things and thinking that we have the power to do and have anything we want.  But it doesn’t work that way.  It takes something more than just ourselves to see beyond what we think we see or want.  And we need to have patience and wait.  #GODMOMENT – “But those who wait on upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk, and not faint.”  Isaiah 40:31

Until my next adventure……….#walkingandwandering

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Slachtemarathon – the day before…….

The start of the Slachtemarathon – the other side of the dyk is the North Sea/Noordzee.IMG_20160602_142727

Well, tomorrow is the day that I have been training for, waiting for, and even set up this blog for…..the SLACHTEMARATHON in Friesland! The Slachtemarathon began in 2000 when the province of Friesland had a sort of ‘Reunion’ – it called all Frisians from around the world to ‘come home’ that summer to celebrate. This is a marathon that happens now once every 4 years, not to raise funds for any particular cause, just as a cultural event, to celebrate everything Frisian. It runs along the Slachtedyk between Oosterbierum and Reard.
Rick and I will be walking this year, along with several of my cousins. We will send a separate blog in the coming days to document this event.
In one of my first blogs was titled “Momma’s got a new pair of shoes”…… well the day before we left, those shoes gave up on me and I had to buy a new pair in Friesland, 2 days before the Slachtemarathon. IMG_20160603_073741Now, I know this is not a good strategy, everyone told us that we would not have time to ‘break them in’. But, I had no choice. So, I keep my fingers crossed that walking in them for the next 48 hours will be enough.

This walk is something that I never thought I would be able to do.  And, while I am still not quite sure myself that I will finish, I know that I have lots of people cheering us on and walking with us to support us.  My cousin, Dirk Monsma, said it best, “when we begin together, we will finish together.”  What a great philosophy, and wonderful to know that others want to help us to accomplish our goal.

So,  follow us live on our Twitter feeds, and come back to this blog to see some of the great Frisian cultural displays (bands, choirs, art installations and much more) that we will pass along the way.  Wish us luck………we will need it!

That’s us at the start of the Slachtemarathon – we were checking it out on Thursday, just to give us a real idea of what we were in for, and to get us more excited for what is to come.



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Shannon Falls Provincial Park, BC – February 22, 2016


Our great mother-daughter adventure was heading into Day 2.  We had planned a drive up to Whistler on the Sea To Sky Highway from Vancouver today.  A quick chat with the concierge at our hotel, (we were still wanting to do a hike somewhere), and her suggestion to stop at Shannon Falls on the way up was a good one.  So, off we went…..leaving the hotel by 8:30am so that we would have enough daylight up in Whistler.  We made our way through Stanley Park and across the Lion’s Gate Bridge and headed north up Highway 99. Image Just after the Furry Creek exit, there is a wonderful place to stop and pick up a latte or cappuccino at the  Galileo Coffee Company .   This quaint shop is housed in the charming 1905 ‘Matheson House’.  Once the home designated for the manager of the nearby copper mine and his family.  They roast their own coffee and have an in-house bakery – the banana bread scones were delicious.  It was perfect to take on our walk up the Shannon Falls Trail.


Shannon Falls Provincial Park is in British Columbia, Canada. It is located 58 kilometers from Vancouver and 2 kilometers south of Squamish along the Sea to Sky Highway.

The park covers an area of 87 hectares. The main point of interest is Shannon Falls, the third highest waterfall in BC, where water falls from a height of 335 meters.[2] The falls are named after a William Shannon who first settled the property in 1889[3] and made bricks in the area.  (Wikipedia)


There is a parking lot just north of this information centre. The information centre was closed at this time of year.  As soon as you walk around the corner of the building, the Falls present themselves to you.

The trail first meanders along a quickly running brook – there are so many places to take photos!  I think we took about 100 photographs just standing in this one place.  This is a truly an enchanting spot – but I have a feeling there are thousands of places that look just like this in the BC interior.


There is a small secondary viewpoint around the corner from this photo.  But the best was yet to come……a third viewpoint could be reached up a series of stairs made up the mountain.IMG_20160222_095252_hdr

So, we climbed……..and we climbed……..and we climbed………a total of 95 steps.

Once we reached the top, what a magnificent sight!  You can see why some of the most famous Canadian painters came to places like this to try to re-create it for others.IMG_20160222_100335_hdr

So, while this trail is only 350m long, (the full hike is about 1km and takes about 45-60 minutes) it is definitely a worthwhile side-trip on the way up to Squamish or Whistler/Blackcomb or Garibaldi.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN A MORE HIGH-RISK HIKE………..STAWAMUS CHIEF is for you (not for us though 🙂  )

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If you are interested in rock-climbing, we would recommend that you continue to the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park which has a trail from Shannon Falls.  Squamish’s iconic granite monolith offers hikers a leg-burning stair-climb, fun scrambling, three peaks, and sweeping views. Plus it’s doable most of the year.  All of these attributes combine to make the 702-metre-high Chief one of the most popular hikes in southwestern British Columbia.  Allow 6 hours for this trail.

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STANLEY PARK – Vancouver, BC

STANLEY PARK – Vancouver, BC – February 21, 2016

Our first adventure after landing in Vancouver was to find a place for lunch and to stretch our legs.    Although the weather seemed a bit ominous, they were calling for rain for most of the day, we decided to venture out anyway.  (who believes the weather man??)  We were staying at the Hyatt hotel  www.vancouver.hyatt.com on Burrard Street and they have umbrellas in the closet – BRILLIANT idea!

Stanley Park  first opened in 1888.  It is Vancouver’s first, largest, and most beloved urban park!  Designated a national  historic site of Canada, Stanley Park  is a magnificent green oasis in the midst of the heavily built urban landscape of Vancouver.   It is described on the website  this way:  “Explore the 400-hectare natural West Coast rainforest and enjoy scenic views of water, mountains, sky, and majestic trees along Stanley Park’s famous Seawall. Discover kilometres of trails, beautiful beaches, local wildlife, great eats, natural, cultural and historical landmarks, along with many other adventures. The park offers a wide range of unforgettable experiences for all ages and interests, including Canada’s largest aquarium.”   http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/stanley-park.aspx


As we made our way to the Park, our first meeting was a large, old  Western Red Cedar.  We were in awe of it’s size and majesty.. little did we know that there would be much more to come.   We were now in search of the largest tree that we could find in the park.

Our destination was The Teahouse in Stanley Park, known for it’s Sunday Brunches.  We had already tried to call ahead to get a reservation, but we were told they could not take more reservations, but that we could just walk in and it would be a short wait.


We began walking around the west side of the park,  and onto the famous seawall.  The birds in the water looked like a cross between a duck and a common loon.  Must find out.  Several container ships were sitting out in English Bay waiting to go into the Port of Vancouver.   We walked past Second Beach,  the smell of the air was so pure and clean – fresh fish, seaweed and salt.   It makes you feel healthier!  AHHHH!

We continued walking about 1km on the seawall and around the next bend we came upon Third Beach,  and found the stairs that take you up to The Teahouse. L8A9261_web1[1]

In 1938 the Teahouse at Ferguson Point in Stanley Park was built as an officers mess for a military defense garrison at Ferguson Point.  By 1940, a gun battery and bunker had been built at Ferguson Point, just east of Third Beach. The military also expanded its use of the park by closing the area around Ferguson Point and Third Beach, where it had established barracks for the battery detachment and was providing training.[41][42] What is now the Teahouse restaurant was originally built as an officers’ mess.[31] The bunker was buried and battery removed around the end of the war.  After the war, the city operated it as a summer teahouse.

When we arrived, we were told that there would be a 30 minute wait and, if we liked, we could take a quick walk.  However, since it was raining by then, we decided to just stand inside the door to wait for a table.  Within about 15 minutes, they had a table ready.  The best in the place!  We sat right next to the old fireplace in the main room.  IMG_20160221_133605

The Teahouse is known for it’s Egg Benedict, and today was no exception.  The special this morning was Lobster and Eggs Benedict – 4oz lobster tail with 2 poached eggs and a steamed medley of broccoli rabe, green beans and asparagus tied in a leek.  This was decadence at it’s best.  Add a glass of prosecco or a mimosa and we were in heaven!

Stanley Park has over 27km of trails throughout the park, including a 10k Seawall around the outside edge.  From the Teahouse, we began to walk east on the Lover’s trail.  Here we were to see the largest Western Red Cedar trees yet.IMG_20160221_143351

It had begun to rain by this time, but down on the trail, it was not too bad.  The trail meandered so that you were always looking around, anticipating what was to come around the next corner.  The Red Cedars kept getting larger/older.  IMG_20160221_143122

Then we spotted this amazing tree about 1km inland.   Our only way to measure was by our arm-span.  This was a “7-HUG TREE”.    This tree is hundreds of years old and Elise is in awe of it.  Also, along this trail, we noticed a lot of trees that had moss and lichen growing from it.  We would find out later in the week that this is because the leaves and pine needles from above would land on the lower branches, the micro-organisms would turn it into a soil and the moss and ferns would begin to grow out of that.  Just the fog/moisture and air is enough to feed and allow this moss to grow.  Nature is truly AMAZING!

About 1km more, and we reached the walking bridge that passes over Hwy. 99, which passes right through the middle of Stanley Park to the Lion’s Gate Bridge and North Vancouver (and eventually to Whistler).


Once over the bridge, we walked around Beaver Lake Trail, where the canopy is much more open.  We made our way out to Pipeline Road and walked back into the city and our hotel.

What a beautiful rainforest in the centre of the city.  A real jewel for the people of Vancouver.  A place for solitude and to appreciate nature to its fullest.  Total hike today was 8.5km.


Posted in British Columbia, Family, Hiking, Living Life in Today's World, Stanley Park, The Teahouse at Stanley Park, Uncategorized, Vancouver, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Weekend in Paris – Our 30th Anniversary – June 15-17, 2014 – First Day

Paris-20140615-00692The day finally arrived that we had been planning for…….our weekend in Paris for our 30th anniversary.    We left Riquewihr after breakfast for the 5 hour drive west.  We decided to park our rental car at the airport and take a taxi to our hotel as all the trains and trams in France were on strike.  I would highly recommend this as you do not need a car in Paris.  It is a very walkable city.

We booked at Hotel au Manoir Saint Germain.     http://www.hotelaumanoir.com/en/  Paris-20140615-00680      Paris-20140615-00681

It is in the heart of the 6th Arrondisement/Saint Germain district, next door to the famous  Brasserie Lipp, where Hemingway wrote a part of “A Moveable Feast” (which I read while looking out this very window)  and across  from Café Flore.   www.cafe-de-flore.com   We had let the hotel know that it was our anniversary, and they upgraded us to this amazing room at the front of the hotel where we could watch and listen to Paris pass us by.  We truly felt as though we were in the Paris of the 1920’s, including the accordion player standing on the corner while we read with our windows wide open.  What a glorious afternoon.  I can understand why writers and artists are fascinated to live in this city.  There is a certain “je ne sais quoi”  that can not be fully explained but must be experienced.

Before heading out, we decided to experience for ourselves what we love to do best in Europe, sit in a outdoor café and watch the world.  Café Louise (http://www.cafe-louise.fr/)  was next door.  A charcuterie plate and two glasses of Alsatian Riesling (Alsace aoc Riesling, Hans Schaeffer) and we were ready to start our first walk of Paris.

Paris-20140615-00683 2014-06-15 15.00.38

Of course, our first destination was the Eiffel Tower.  We walked for about 3.5 km from the hotel and arrived about 8pm, still daylight, and beautiful to see.  We walked through the large public greenspace called Champs de Mars, where both families and intimate couples sat throughout the park, having picnics, playing games or simply sipping a glass of wine.    It was originally designed in 1765 and was the site of the World Exposition in 1889, at which time the Eiffel Tower was built.

There was a 4-hour wait to go up the Eiffel Tower so we just wandered around a bit and found a place to pick up a boat cruise on the Seine. http://www.bateauxparisiens.com   This was a good choice.  We would begin while it was still light out, but return as it became dark and could see the Eiffel Tower lit up.

2014-06-15 15.07.07Many Japanese tourists here too – but we chose a great seat outside at the back of the boat and could see everything.  We travelled west on the Seine, under many bridges, including the Pont d’Alexandre, Pont des Arts (Love Bridge), and Pont d’Alma – this bridge serves as a measuring instrument for water levels in times of flooding on the Seine: access to the footpaths by the river embankments usually is closed when the Seine’s level reaches the feet of the Zouave statue; when the water hits his thighs, the river is unnavigable.

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We cruised around the Ile de la Cite, the island in the middle of the Seine River, and could see Notre Dame Cathedral from the water.  Paris-20140615-00691

Paris-20140615-00698As we returned back to the Eiffel Tower, it felt like it was just a dream.   I did not really believe others when they called this the City of Love, but I guess I was wrong.  There is something so romantic in this place.  Once we left the boat cruise, we took a cab back to the hotel.  A total of 5.7 km of walking.  We ended the evening back at Café Louise, with a salad, some foie gras and a nightcap.  What a fabulous first day in Paris.

Posted in Boat Cruise, Cafe Louise, Eiffel Tower, foie gras, France, Hemingway, Hotel au Manoir Saint Germain, Living Life in Today's World, Paris, Seine River, Walking, Wandering, Wine-tasting | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ALSACE WANDERINGS – Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg – June 14, 2014

Rick and I celebrated our 30th Anniversary by touring through the Alsace region of France and then spending a few days in Paris…..PARIS!!  (more of that later).  We have been dreaming of doing a 7-day walking tour through the Alsace, wandering from winery to winery.  We ended up spending two days in Strasbourg and then spending 3 days and 2 nights in the wonderful medieval village of Riquewihr.

2014-06-13 15.27.51

We stayed at the Hotel de l’Oriel in Riquewihr – the second photo is a view from our room.  It is a wonderful, quaint hotel, built in the 15th century.  We were there during the World Cup Soccer and the bar in the cellar became a great place to watch the Holland/Spain game.  http://www.hotel-oriel.com/AG/

2014-06-14 05.00.45To get from Amsterdam to Alsace, we chose to drive along the Rhine River and came upon castle after castle around almost every bend in the river.  It is hard to imagine what life must have been like 500 years ago.  With Rick’s historical nature, touring a castle was high on the list for this trip.

Castle Haut-Koenigsbourg was a must for the tour and ended up being a ‘hike’ of sorts.  We drove the 25km  from Riquewihr to Orschwiller through the quaint villages of Ribeauville, Rorschwihr and Saint-Hippolyte where we turned left and began a series of hair-pin turns through the forest as we climbed over 700m to make our way up the mountain.

The first records of a castle built by the Hohenstaufens date back to 1147. Castrum Estuphin, as it was called at the time, sat high above the Alsace plain at an altitude of more than 700 metres. This rocky promontory site was ideal for observing the main routes in the region, and provided a strategic fall-back point. The fortress changed its name to Koenigsburg (royal castle) around 1157.
The castle was handed over to the Tiersteins by the Habsburgs following its destruction in 1462. They rebuilt and enlarged it, installing a defensive system designed to withstand artillery fire.

The fortification work accomplished over the 15th century did not suffice to keep the Swedish artillery at bay during the Thirty Years War, and the Hohkoenigsbourg defences were overrun. Besieged, pillaged then finally burnt to the ground in 1633, the castle was left abandoned for two hundred years.
Its ruins were classified as a historical monument in 1862. Three years later, the castle ruins were purchased by the nearby town of Sélestat. A restoration project was decided on, starting with the consolidation of part of the ruins. In 1882, the architect Winkler drew up an ambitious reconstruction plan which would never be carried out, as the town did not have the means to fund it.
The Alsace region was annexed to Germany in 1871, and Sélestat offered the still majestic ruins of the castle to Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1899.

Work started on the castle almost as soon as it had been bought by Kaiser Wilhelm II. The German emperor wished to rebuild the fortress completely, just as it would have been in the 15th century. He put the architect and historian Bodo Ebhardt in charge of the project.  Major work on clearing the site to get it ready for construction work started in 1900. Numerous photographs of the site were taken and this archival work continued throughout the duration of the project.  The first stone of the château du Haut-Koenigsbourg was laid in 1901. The castle keep was the first part of the château to be rebuilt. Its reconstruction symbolized the power of its new owner. Also, in more practical terms, it meant that the castle site could be cleared of stones. Almost immediately, sharp criticism of the work was heard…  They even built a train system to get materials up and down the mountain.

2014-06-13 22.11.36The tour itself lasted over an hour and took us through most of the chateau – winding staircases, artillery keeps, massive dining rooms and quaint bedrooms, tiled fireplaces in every room.  There is even a restaurant, and many ‘outlooks’ to view the amazing vistas from the top of the mountain.2014-06-13 22.22.59


If you are in the area, it is definitely worth taking a half-day to visit the chateau.  The drive up the mountain itself is incredible.  You do need to be fit to walk up to the castle and through it.  (there is some wheelchair accessibility)


And, on the way back to Riquewihr, we did stop in one of those quaint villages, Saint-Hippolyte, to have a wine-tasting.  Sylvie Fahrer et Fils is a wonderful little ‘hole-in-the-wall’ for a tasting.  Many of the wineries tasting-rooms are small and quaint.  They also have a small 6-room hotel above the wine-making rooms.  Both the Pinot Noir and the Riesling were amazing.  We would expect nothing less.

http://www.fahrer-sylvie.com/Sylvie Fahrer et Fils


Alsace Saint-Hippolyte-20140614-00675

Sylvie Fahrer et Fils Viticulteur

Sylvie Fahrer et Fils Viticulteur


Posted in Alsace Wine Route, Castles, France, Hiking, Uncategorized, Walking, Walking, Wandering, Wine-tasting | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

WALKING THROUGH ALSACE – Riquewihr – Hunawihr – June 14, 2014

Well, the day has finally arrived.  We have been planning our 30th Anniversary walk in Alsace for several years.  We began with an amazing evening in Strasbourg, wandering through the streets, Alsace Strasbourg-20140612-00649stopping in La Petite France District at La Corde a Ligne for a great dinner/charcuterie  and wine.


We stayed in the cutest little boutique hotel,2014-06-13 03.21.39 2014-06-13 03.17.35

Hotel  Gutenberg.   www.hotelgutenberg.com/   Strasbourg is a very walkable city.  Flowers are found in every windowsill of restaurants and apartments in La Petite France district – they were unbelievable and the Notre-Dame Cathedral is worth the visit.

Alsace-Strasbourg Jun 14 (7)Our trek began the evening before when we arrived in Riquewihr, Alsace.   Riquewihr is situated between the peaks of the Vosges mountains and the Plain of Alsace.  It is a medieval town right in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards, classified among the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.  For centuries, this magnificent town has managed to combine the quality of its architecture with the quality of it’s world-famous wines.  Riquewihr is an “open-air museum”.  It has managed to preserve its authentic character behind its city walls built in 1291.

2014-06-13 16.29.222014-06-13 16.27.362014-06-13 16.26.15

We booked two nights at the beautiful small Hotel a L’Oriel.  2014-06-13 15.27.51The view from our window was like being in a fairytale.  They offered a full breakfast each morning and had a great little cave-bar to have a night-cap – the perfect ending to a perfect day.  My first Kir-Royale.  We even got to watch the World Cup match between the Netherlands and Spain.   Hup Holland!!    http://www.hotel-oriel.com/

The next morning, we headed over to the tourist office to pick up a walking map of the area.   http://www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/en/   This is the Alsace Wine Route  which is interwoven throughout this region. http://www.vinsalsace.com/en/  We walked up Rue General de Gaulle through the 2014-06-13 16.32.53Dolders tower and ramparts.    We turned right once outside the gate onto Rue de 5 Decembre 1944 towards Hunawihr, which was about a 15% incline for the next 2 kilometres, through a forested area.  Once we reached the top of the hill, we found ourselves in 2014-06-13 17.04.29the midst of miles and miles of estate vineyards that were hundreds of years old.  Families owning the vineyards would have their names inscribed into the hillsides.  (this one was inscribed over 100 years ago). The paths were only wide enough for a tractor to pass through.

2014-06-13 17.06.342014-06-13 16.58.00We packed a small backpack with some water, apples, and some snacks for along the way.   Rick was interested in the variety of ways that grapes were supported while growing.

A little further along the path we looked up and could see the bell tower of the fortified church.  Overlooking the village, the 15th/16th century Church of St Jacques le Majeur, surrounded by a fortified cemetery, has preserved an unspoiled environment, and is a good example of the unity of the Alsace region.  This church offers both Catholic and Protestant services.  2014-06-14 05.01.592014-06-13 17.25.542014-06-13 17.17.02
This Church also served as a donjon where the inhabitants could take refuge in case of attack.

As we walk down the other side of the hill, we temporarily lose sight of the church.   2014-06-14 05.16.292014-06-13 17.30.23  Ahead of us, we walk along side the stork sanctuary.   A few of them wander the streets.   Once we are at the bottom of the hill and around the corner, we decide to take a look back.  The church looks amazing, and large. 2014-06-13 17.32.33From this view, you can see that it was fortified.   They did not build a wall around the entire town, just the church and cemetery.  It was built upon a “terp”, the highest point in the village, just like in Friesland.  The vineyards surround the entire village.  And we are about to cut into one of the paths between the vines as we continue on the Walking Wine Route.

2014-06-13 17.58.30Along the way were signposts like the one shown here to direct you along the Alsace Wine Route.  We would now follow the path through the vineyards to arrive in Zellenberg, where we found a beautiful restaurant for lunch.   It was called Le Maximilien.   It was in an older house on a hill, but looked like it had a nice patio .  What we didn’t realize is that this is a Michelin star restaurant and we were dressed for hiking.  But the maitre’d was gracious and seated us anyway.  We had a very tasty cheese platter with a heavenly butter-tasting local Riesling.


Alsace - Riquewihr Jun 14 (1)We were now on the homestretch of our Alsatian walk, up and down more vineyard pathways.  The Vosges Mountain range is spectacular.  I can’t believe we are really doing this.  The path kept getting more and more narrow.  2014-06-13 19.53.04It almost looked like no one had walked this portion of the Alsace Walking Route yet this year.   (Are we on the right path??)

2014-06-13 20.04.56As we round the last corner, we come upon the Hotel de Ville, the eastern entrance into the wall of the town.  It is one of the newer buildings in the town, built in 1809.   There is a moat around this side of the wall.  As we walk through the wall, the town has been transformed into a “Carnival”.    11km  today, but it felt like we just walked through a little bit of  heaven.

2014-06-13 16.58.40What an amazing day – the perfect way for us to celebrate our 30th anniversary together.   Tomorrow, on to Paris and the Eiffel Tower!

I love you very much!!

Posted in Alsace Wine Route, France, Hiking, Michelin Restaurant, Riquewihr, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Friese Kustpad – Stavoren – Hindeloopen – October 28, 2012

Friese Kustpad – Stavoren – Hindeloopen – October 28, 2012.

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