Day 8 (June 20, 2018 – Freiburg, Germany): “Running Out Of Moves…”
Once again, I awoke to the 5am alarm. Today promised to be a very busy day as we had a long drive ahead of us as well as a visit to Colmar before returning to Germany in Freiburg im Breisgau. Of course, the added complication of losing the ability to recharge the laptop was also weighing on my mind though I was really hoping that finding a replacement power supply plug or adapter would do the trick.
Eventually at around 6:35am, we started to load up the car after finally having a quick cold breakfast, getting Tahia up, and then lugging our belongings for a few minutes to the parking garage at the Place de Martyrs. Perhaps the surprising thing (in a bit of some good surprises for once) was that the parking was only on the order of 10.8 euros instead of the anticipated 36.8 euros. Not sure why that was, but I’ll take it (perhaps I had misread the signs in French about the overnight rate).
Knowing that there was the long drive ahead of us, I knew that Julie and Tahia could sleep in the car and get caught up on some rest. But I knew that I wouldn’t be so fortunate since I was the driver.
In any case, the drive south of Luxembourg went pretty smoothly as we took the A3 autoroute south towards the France border, where it then became the A31 autoroute bound for Nancy. On long drives like this, I started to notice trivial things like perhaps Nancy might be a French name much like Lorraine could be a French name considering that we had just entered the French province of Lorraine.
Nonetheless, this autoroute didn’t have a toll road though the volume of traffic considering how long we were driving for kind of was a bit surprising considering how light traffic on the autoroutes were in the south of France when Julie and I toured that region some 6 years ago. Of course, those autoroutes required tolls.
One thing that did concern Julie and I was that Tahia was complaining about a tummy ache and headache and wanting to throw up. Since Tahia hadn’t eaten much this morning, we weren’t sure why. However, we did preoccupy ourselves with the thought that maybe that bed bug I had found on her pillow back at Bacharach might have been a tick instead and could have potentially transmitted some kind of illness. She eventually went back to sleep, which stopped the complaining, but that kind of made our drive a bit uneasy as Julie was using the phone to do some research.
Regardless, once we got past Nancy, we then took the E33/N57 and eventually got off at the D420, which eventually allowed us to access the D11 somewhere near the town of Epinal. Next, we followed the D11 as we started to see signs for the Cascade de Tendon, which was always a good sign.
By 9am, we would arrive at the car park for the Grande Cascade de Tendon, where we actually skipped the signed turnoff for the Petite Cascade de Tendon. The 800m or so spur road we took to get here was on a narrow single-lane road going past an auberge, but since we were the first ones to arrive apparently (save for a car already parked here where we weren’t sure if it was a visitor or some staff or something), we didn’t have a whole lot to worry about in terms of traffic going the other way.
Much to our relief, when Tahia woke up, she was no longer complaining about nausea. When we looked at a wound that was near her ear on her scalp, it looked as if her wound had healed, and that there was no sign of the bullseye rash or other things that would have been telltale tick infections.
When we got out of the car, we noticed that the Grande Cascade de Tendon was pretty much near the car park. There was a longer trail leading back to the Petite Cascade de Tendon, but we knew that we could just as easily drive back there to check it out now that we saw how little effort it took to get up to the Grande Cascade de Tendon.
The views from the bottom were somewhat obstructed by trees, but going up the rocky trail made it easier to just get to an outcrop with a nice unobstructed view of the waterfall.
There was also some kind of trail that veered to the left but I couldn’t tell where it was leading to. And with time tight on this day, we couldn’t afford to explore it and see where it went.
By about 9:50am, we were back in the car and quite surprised to see that all of the sudden there were at least a half-dozen other cars that had showed up! Apparently, this little place was quite the popular spot!
Anyways, we decided to complete the experience by backtracking to the Petite Cascade de Tendon. Five minutes later, we would take the signed spur and follow a short 150m unpaved road to get there, where there were a couple of other cars already parked under the shade.
Like with the Grande Cascade, the Petite Cascade was for all intents and purposes a roadside waterfall. But unlike the first falls, this waterfall required a short descent to get down to its base. Along the way, we were enjoying the views looking down at its entire segmented and tiered characterstic.
It was a more intimate waterfall than the first considering there were some sections of the creek that allowed Tahia to get a little wet and enjoy herself for a bit. Meanwhile, Julie and I took a few moments to chillax for a bit and witness the falls. But that was cut short when a middle-aged couple came by with their tripods and one guy started smoking, which filled the area with the unwelcome second-hand cigarette smoke. It was too bad that one of American’s worst inventions once again came to bite us in places where Nature should prevail.
By about 10:40am, we returned to the car. Then, we proceeded to drive further to the east along the D11 before joining up with the D417 road. This road was much more twistier and climbed up and down past a couple of cols before making its gradual approach further east to the scenic Lac de Gerardmer.
This was one of those lakes where it would have been nice to experience a side of France most tourists wouldn’t get to see or experience, but we had to stick to the course and continue our drive further east to Colmar, which we had anticipated would be the highlight of our touring for today.
Unfortunately, there was road construction going on that blocked the D417 so we wound up taking a detour through some residential streets. In hindsight, I had mistakenly missed a turn at a roundabout and yet that probably would have worked and saved us a few minutes.
Regardless, the drive continued to the east as we left the Vosges department and headed into the Haut-Rhin department. We had to follow a caravan of slow drivers (including one RV that refused to use any of the pullouts for slow traffic), and we’d eventually get into the city center of Colmar.
Throughout this drive, I was amused to see signs of places with French articles and prepositions but German words. Clearly, there was a German influence in this part of France.
After some time making one circle in search of a suitable parking structure, we eventually parked at the Rapp Car Park at about 12:15pm. As soon as we got our day belongings and started walking out of the garage, we could already feel that it was a pretty warm day, which was quite unlike anything we had felt up to this point as we had pretty mild weather (although it was pretty much overcast the entire time up until today).
This was the first time on this trip that it was clear skies and beautiful weather.
Julie’s first order of business was to find a place to eat given her diet restrictions. However, the cuteness of the old town of Colmar quickly gripped us and before we knew it, we were spending lots of time pausing to take pictures as the narrow alleyways flanked by historic timbered houses leaning over these alleyways kept drawing camera clicks.
Indeed, this seemed to be like a larger scale Rambles in York or extended version of Cochem that we had just seen the day before yesterday.
When we got all the way down to the Koifhus and Schwendi Fountain after walking along the Rue des Marchands, we then followed the Place de l’Ancienne Douane up to the Grand ‘Rue towards this place that served up galettes called Le Gourmand. We eventually got there at 1:05pm.
We wound up getting galettes like La Complete, La Romaine, and Le Forestiere. They pretty much hit the spot. Then, Tahia and I also shared a sweet crepe of nutella and chantilly cream. They didn’t do it a la mode as I would have liked.
Regardless, at around 2pm, we then started to explore a little bit of the town but not before we stumbled upon an FNAC shop, where we quickly went in and picked up a replacement power adapter hoping that would do the trick. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my laptop so I couldn’t test it out right then and there.
That kind of sucked, but we still had touring of Colmar to do. So we then left the FNAC and finally started our tour though Tahia was already complaining about the heat and making it a little rough for Julie and I to enjoy the Little Venice part of town.
We’d eventually randomly follow the canal along the Rue des Tanneurs before getting to the Covered Market (Marche Couvert) though we wouldn’t find a gelato place to help pacify Tahia’s complaining. Regardless, we still tried to enjoy the moment as just on the other side of the market was the Quai de la Poissonerie (Fishmonger’s District).
Once we saw that part of town, that was when we finally saw the charming canals of Colmar as there were a handful of little gondola tours going up and down the canals with flower-fringed bridges and flanks watched over by half-timbered houses that really gave this place a unique charm that surpassed our feeling of touring the old town of Annecy six years ago.
As we continued walking along the Quai de la Poissonerie (a tight alleyway leading to the Petite Venise), we then got to a bridge overlooking the legit part of the so-called Little Venice, where there were more cute timbered homes flanking the narrow canal.
All the lighting was such that the half-timbered homes would have been backlit had we been here in the morning. But we’ll take what we can get in our limited time in Colmar.
The heat was still pretty intense as we ambled along and gladly snapped photographs. Tahia finally got her citron gelato so at least she was pacified for the moment.
Eventually, we got to the plaza near the Roesselmann Fountain, where there was some filming going on for some kind of Chinese television show or something like that. I knew something was up when we saw some heavy camera equipment. They even put some signage to turn what seemed like some other kind of restaurant into a Chinese restaurant.
Anyways at 3:40pm, after having our fill of this part, where it seemed like the charm factor of Colmar started to decrease the further to the west we went, we then went back the way we came towards the Parking Rapp. Once down there at the car park at 4:45pm (once again, we were drawn to other squares and alleyways that caught our attention and camera clicks; as well as buying some ice cream to offset the heat), we then tested out whether the Asus laptop could still be charged with the replacement power adapters.
While the plugs were finally a perfect fit for the laptop, I saw that metal contact inside the socket was broke. And so my worst fears came true.
We now had to take the laptop and go back to the FNAC. We eventually got back there some time around 5pm, and then I had to wait for the person that helped me previously to become available. And sure enough, they confirmed with me that the new adapters didn’t work, and so I had to return those plugs with a 10% restocking fee. So I wound up losing about 5 euros and some time in that exchange.
Then, when I saw that the computers they were selling were all in French, I was probing whether I could use them. Well, the person then told me that there were some dedicated dealers on another street that I could try. And so I promptly walked out there and further along the Grand ‘Rue before making it to the Rue du Nord and Rue Saint Eloi.
That was when we went into one such dealer, but he explained that we were pretty screwed in terms of finding a way to replace the contact or at least solder it back to working condition. I kind of suspected that would be the case, and he pretty much confirmed that these were the type of issues that you would have to send back to the manufacturer.
So we eventually went back to the FNAC, and after waiting for the person who helped me before to help me again, I’d eventually purchase their cheapest laptop, which was some kind of Lenovo notebook. After staying until the place closed at 7pm, we’d eventually get the computer set up to as much English as possible. Even the QWERTY keyboard was restored though I’d now have to ignore the markings on the keyboard itself since now the French system no longer applied. That meant I’d had to rely on my touch typing muscle memory.
I also had to get by with the setting up of the Windows in French before we even got to that point where things were mostly in English. This was where my self-studying of French actually helped quite a bit. I guess as useless as it might seem to try to learn a foreign language, you just never know when it comes to serve you in emergency situations like these!
And with that, we eventually returned to the Parking Rapp at 7:15pm with a new Lenovo notebook in hand (costing me about 230 euro) and still some work to do when we would get to Freiburg in terms of getting this laptop set up to work in a way that I could still limp along for the rest of this trip.
We were also under time pressure to get to Freiburg before we’d be shut out for good. So we couldn’t afford to have a meal in Colmar, and in hindsight, I wished that I had spent the night there (must have been the third or fourth time we thought this so certainly it was on our minds).
Anyways, we drove off and paid the nearly 11 euro in parking. Even though we spent about 7 hours in Colmar, 3 of those hours were computer-related issues. That was not good. For sure, this was going to be a town we’d have to target on a more extended return visit to France.
Eventually at 8:05pm, we found parking at the Karlsbau structure, which was beneath some shopping area by the Mercure Hotel.
After carrying our luggages and walking towards the general direction of the apartment we were staying, that was when we met up with someone who was waiting outside the door at the apartment. She promptly took us up to our spacious apartment where she explained some things and allowed us to get settled.
Anyways, time was running out, and it was about 9pm when we went downstairs for our grocery run. We learned that one restaurant that could prepare the food gluten free was open until 10:30pm though there was some deal with their “big menu” being closed at 9pm so we’d have to order off of their “little menu”.
Regardless, we found a Rewe within walking distance that was closed at 10pm so that was the first order of business. We promptly went by the road construction to get to the supermarket, and then picked up some water and some other goods like fruits before returning to the apartment to take advantage of the refrigerator.
Then, we headed back downstairs to the main drag (trying to avoid some loiterers outside the apartment) before finding an impressive cathedral in the midst of a massive plaza. It turned out that the restaurant Julie had called was the Oberkirchs Weinstuben, which was at the edge of one side of this square.
And so we had ourselves a bit of a twilight dinner while trying not to mind the cigarette smoke too much which enjoying the clear skies and the Dom towering over the scene.
The food was a pretty straightforward affair of steak, pork chops, and some cold stringed wurst salad we had gotten for Tahia (which was not in the form of a hot dog that she would have liked).
It wouldn’t be until about 11pm when we were back at the room. Finally, we get cleaned up as I knew that I was a sweaty and stinky mess throughout our time in Colmar. So Julie and Tahia ended up in bed at around midnight.
However, I was still struggling with the new Lenovo that I had bought from the FNAC. The major issue was not so much the French setup (which was now configured for much English as possible), but the big issue was that apparently the Windows 10 that was pre-installed had blocked my ability to run any other software that was not Microsoft.
This artifically, planned-obsolence measure was absolute crap. Now, it kept me from running Mapsource (to download GPS data from my etrex and Nuvi), it kept me from running Adobe Bridge (for naming photos in batch), and running Notepad++ for text editing without the baggage and bugginess of the minimalist WordPad or Notepad.
I eventually figured out I could at least capture the GPX files directly from the Garmin Nuvi. However, I couldn’t do the same thing with the handheld Garmin etrex that I would need while on the trail. So that’s one situation where I would really have to ration the old laptop’s charge in order not to lose handheld data from memory overflow or lack of batteries.
As for the photos, without Adobe Bridge, I basically had to offload the photos onto the computer without naming or marking them. That would just increase my workload at home to get all caught up. But at least that wasn’t a showstopper on this trip.
And so it was that I had finally found somewhat of a battle rhythm to limp forward. Even though I was running out of moves to salvage this trip from this bit of drama from equipment malfunction, at least this should hold us over for the remaining five weeks of this trip before I really have my work cut out for me back at home…