Friday, January 7, 2011

Trains, Planes and Wedding Bells!

I went to Europe for my christmas vacation. My friend Gaelle was getting married in Strasbourg at a castle, and who's going to turn that down? So, I scrimped and saved- found a cheap ass ticket on Cathay Pacific and flew off to Paris for the wedding. I had made the decision once I got the invitation to backpack Europe afterward- why not? I made a big itinerery, booked my hostels and set off! Little did I know I was going off into the WORST blizzard in European History for my trip... This for the poor girl who has never been in snow! I was in for a wild ride.
This entire vacation felt like it was ruled by the train systems in Europe, and the snow...

Paris- Transit stations!
I got to Paris late because my flight was delayed due to weather. I made the transfer to Gare du Nord train station on the B line because it was cheap. When I got there I discovered I had to buy another ticket for a second subway train. I had no Euros in coins because my cash exchange only gave me these giant 50 and 100E notes. I wandered the train station of Gare du Nord for about 20 minutes trying to find a change machine. Low and Behold I find one! Then I have to walk back through the station and take my train to Gare du Nord East. I found out later I could have walked there.... Bitches!

I get to Gare du Nord east at about midnight. I have missed the last train to Strasbourg due to my train issues. So I decide to wait until 6am at the train station for the first train out. The wedding was the next day and I had to get there! It was the whole reason for coming! So, I snuggle into the waiting chamber at GDE, it's a little heated room with a tv. But it is still freezing because (wait for it) the train station was measuring at -2 degrees celcius. That is damn cold! Too cold to sleep in, even in a little heated room! So, I proceeded to wait in the room with about 50 other people who had missed train connections due to the snow. At 2am a conductor comes in, they are closing the station and we must leave. But if we have a ticket already (SCORE!) then we can sleep in an abandoned train car at the station. I take them up on the offer and settle into the train car. Only to find it has no heat! BRR.... I am snuggled into the room with 2 other people and we are trying to all rest because it is 3am but NOPE it's too cold! At 5:30 the station is going to re-open so I pull out my IPOD and watch Tori and Dean until it opens! I have never been as cold as I was in Paris that night, every part of my body hurt.... But I made it through. The next morning I try to get on the train to Strasbourg to discover with my pass I need a reservation. WTF? Why didn't you tell me this LAST night frenchies?! I cried when I thought I couldn't go to the wedding and was blurting on about the wedding and trains. I think the only word the guy understood was wedding, so he thought I was getting married. And he let me on the train. THANK the BABY JESUS!

Strasbourg- Wedding Bells!
I got to Strasbourg, France a little before 10am. The train was delayed and slow because of the snow. Apparently the tracks were frozen between Paris and Strasbourg and they were waiting for someone to finish thawing them out!
I got to the Chateau where the wedding was happening and it was "tres grande". My very nice taxi driver told me it is the oldest and most expensive hotel in all Strasbourg. He says, "This is a very fancy place. You don't look fancy." I told him I was invited to a wedding and he understood, I'm not fancy but the wedding is going to be!!!
The Chateau Portaleas in Strasbourg, France

Loved the rooftop!

When we drove up to it I was in awe. It was built in 1750 for a duchess of France. She was a member of the court in Louis VI time but was not killed during the French Revolution. After the war the chateau changed owners and was recently bought by a hotel company who converted the main house into a very fancy hotel, the stables into a hotel and the servants quarters into 25 dollar a night hostel style beds. It was very fancy and I was all excited to sleep in the castle... And then I got told I was sleeping in the servant's quarters, DOH!

25 Euros! A bargain!

Still, they were the nicest servant's quarters I have ever seen! The breakfast at the Chateau was off the hook! Fresh baked Chocolate Croisants! I ate like 3 each morning. Fresh squeezed juice and great coffee. Unlimited portions, count me in! The internet is also free, BONUS!

Flash forward to the wedding, It was a beautiful ceremony although my French is not so good so I only understood every 7th word. There was a southern style Gospel singer which I dug and I enjoyed the songs. Never have heard Amazing Grace at a wedding before, it's a funeral song in the states! (EEP!)
The wedding was beautiful and extravagant. I will never be invited to such a nice one again. The bride was beautiful but I think she was cold because during the first set of wedding photos she was wearing bright red sneakers with the wedding dress. Maybe the snow was too difficult for her heels to be in. But she wore them for the ceremony! We had mulled wine outside of the church and a cocktail hour (maybe two?) inside the chateau while the dinner was being set up. I was pretty cold at that point so I switched my nice boots that had gotten wet for my snow boots. Snow boots and a Lanvin for H&M dress? Why not!

The dinner was fantastic with all these different courses and the dessert was this cool snowball thing that they poured orange flavored sugar over. Delicious! And I have never seen anything like it before in my life! I could tell after my first full day in France, I'm going to like the food here! Although if you come to France make sure you are comfortable eating the food. I was served veal and frois gras in France which are very typical for their cuisine. My little heart ached while eating the baby cows, but they were in a delicious sauce so my guilt was appeased. French food is not for the weak of heart, you must dig into their plates with gusto. Eat those snails with abandon! Order that tartar! Don't be chicken, eat some goose liver!
The Happy Couple! Congrats Fred and Gaelle!

After dinner, I had to crash! I was so tired I was starting to fall asleep at the table! Must have been all the wine because you know, the french love their wine! I then woke up the next morning to another round of chocolate croissants and a train ride to Paris. I was planning to visit my friend Sarah in London. Unfortunately, there was a HUGE issue with the Eurostar and I got stuck in Paris! Oh no! There was a line of over 2,000 people at the train station- they called out the french military to prevent riots! Craziness. I slept in Paris at this shady, shady hotel and went off to Brussells the next morning. And with the mention of Brussells. I say, to be continued!

My french snowball... Yummy!

1/2 of the line at Eurostar in Paris! YIKES!

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