This was a different type of holiday for me. I had already booked my following summer holiday and used most of the money I saved on that early booking to pay for this one. I was going to look round some Christmas Markets but had no intention of using it to buy presents. Other people on the trip apparently did have that intention.
Sunday 3rd December
This was the day to travel to London. I left the central heating on at home on a low setting burning 24/7 to keep some level of heat in the flat. Was expecting my main line service to start today in Stirling but, when I got to Waverley it was already on the platform where it was actually starting from. However this train broke down at Durham, we all had to get off and get on the next train through. However we all lost our reservations and I ended up joining many others in standing in cold vestibule areas. Eventually arrived in Kings Cross, London 40 minutes late.
Monday 4th December
This was a travel day. Eurostar terminal at St Pancras was busy with snake queuing but I felt my progress through was smooth, helped by striking up conversations with a couple of people on the way through. There was an easy transfer in Paris with plenty of time at Gar de L’Est to walk around and get something to eat. The TGV to Strasbourg was good. We could have stayed on it to Colmar (which was its destination) but because of our time of travel we had to change trains. Our seats on the TGV were not taken up! So we had to wait 40 minutes on a change of train to a local service running between Strasbourg and Colmar. The hotel we are staying in (Best Western) is just outside the station but not noisy.
Tuesday 5th December – Colmar
Today was classed as a day at leisure in Colmar as the only organised thing was a tour of this town in the evening. We were free to do what we wanted. I was first down for breakfast at 7.30 am, didn’t see anyone else until an hour later. I left the hotel around 9am and went walking around the town centre which was about 20 minutes away. I saw most of the market stalls while they were still setting up and gradually getting busier. I was able to get into the indoor market before the queues started. That has security guards to control access to the steps up/down. There are 5 mini markets all quite close to each other so its easy to get round them all. Did buy a couple of wee things for myself. The guided tour as darkness was falling was good, pointing out things I hadn’t spotted earlier in the day but I did struggle with the Guide’s English at times. But I did learn more about he history of the town, the region, and, of course Christmas and why Colmar thinks it has the best markets in the world.
Wednesday 6th December – Freiburg
This ended up being a disappointment. The tour was advertised as Colmar and the Black Forest. Today should have been about going through the Forest and ending up in Frieburg. Now, while I type this up, I’m still waiting on going through! The coach trip took us through a few villages after crossing over the Rhine into Germany, with some trees, that are classed as being in the Black Forest. Apparently there is a sort of funicular that will take you up one of the hills at the edge of town into the “official” forest! Once we got off the coach we were guided to the tourist office and left on our own until meeting up with a guide 2 hours later. It only had 2 Xmas markets, they claim 3 but one is the normal market where people go to buy their fruit, vegetables etc with a few Xmas stalls thrown in. We met up with the official guide outside the cathedral at 12 noon and he took us into and through this building in a very informative way, then a quick birl round certain parts of the town. It was a very long afternoon. We had been asked if we wanted to return at 4pm or 5pm. Most opted for 5pm but a few later confessed they wished they’d chosen 4pm as they, like me found it too long with not much to do but wander the streets or sit in a cafe. I did manage to buy a couple of wee presents for myself.
Thursday 7th December – Strasbourg
A 30 minute rail journey from Colmar, on arrival we are guided to the main cathedral then basically “dumped” for the rest of the day until the middle of the afternoon to do what you wanted and find your own way round. I think most of us managed to find and fight our way into the tourist information office to pick up guide books – after having a security bag check. There was no official organised tour. I felt we could have benefited from one. The main town is actually an island, a big shopping centre with various markets. It would have been possible to visit the European Parliament’s official headquarters but the tram system wasn’t fully operations due to roadworks and we couldn’t figure out which was which and we felt it too far to walk. So, just walking round the town, crossing the bridges going through bag searches on returning to the city centre as security had kicked on at 10am. It’s easy to close off as its an island. Yes I did buy another couple of wee presents. We took the 4.30 pm train back to Colmar.
Friday 8th December
The long journey home. Colmar to Strasbourg, change for Paris, change for Eurostar to London, change for train to Edinburgh then the last train of the day back home. Got into my flat just after midnight to a pleasantly heated flat.
Off the 3 towns, Colmar definitely has the best markets and it helped being compact. If I was going to do any Xmas shopping I’d go back there and to that hotel as it was nice with decent food.
Oh, what were the wee presents? The usual wee magnets of the town I was in (for the fridge) and 3 colourfully painted pewter dragons that take up space on my mantelpiece.