Oh, to be a geranium salesman in Colmar, France...
When I retire, and want to make some REAL money, I may settle in the city of Colmar just south of Strasbourg, France, and sell geraniums. Seems every window box and rail planter in the entire city has geraniums. Tens of thousands of them. Reminded me of our trips to Switzerland and their ever-present, window-box-trapped geraniums on medieval half-timbered houses.
If not for the canals, lock houses, and medieval villages, the terrain and trees look like parts of New York State at this time of year. The paved path to the right follows the canals and was great for walking, biking (and for my wife to run). It was cool all week, starting off in the 50s and getting down to below 32 at night.
This area of France, being just the other side of the German border has influence from both their German & Swiss neighbors, architecturally, culturally, and agriculturally. Their history reads something like this:
12 BC - Roman
1200s - Free city
1400s - Free Republic
1918 - French
1940s - German occupation
After WWII - French once more
Colmar was a beautiful town that was just one of our side trips while cruising the canals on a barge for the week. If you are ever in need of a unique vacation I highly suggest a Barge Canal Cruise in Europe. This barge, the Lorraine, sleeps 22 max (there were only 17 the week we were on board, mostly American, a few Australians) and has a crew of seven (captain, deckhand, two stewards, a tour guide, one manager and a chef).
Our home for the week. Cruising through France at walking pace for six days. A slow pace you just can't find anyplace else.
The chef made gourmet meals for us, including homemade foie gras, a local Alsatian specialty. The meals were nothing less than spectacular, made with local produce bought in the towns we visited along the canal, highlighted with local specialties, two area wines introduced with each meal, and two French cheeses (they take their cheeses VERY seriously) introduced after the meal, before dessert.
Another favorite basket planting was sweet potato vine, but curiously only in its familiar chartreuse form. The darker sweet potato vines were not to be seen.
The barge travels at about 4mpg for the week. You can easily get off at any lock (there are many) and walk or ride a bike up to the next lock or two or three or four. You walk faster than the barge. A bus driven by the tour guide meets us at each stop and takes us on a tour or two each day - a crystal glass factory, medieval towns, a brewery beer tasting, a wine tasting, a Chagall stained glass window, a museum, a Strasbourg tour, and a covered (touristy) boat tour of Strasbourg.
The owners of the Boat, Ed and Ona, were on board. They've just purchased another boat that needs refurbishing before it settles its life on a Burgundy itinerary. The Lorraine may be hosting a "French cooking school" theme week next year.
As much as the flowers add color, so do the colors of the Alsatian half-timbered houses. Did you know the plaster between the timbers is made of clay, straw and fur?
He's also got lots of ideas for other "theme" cruises - including breast & prostate cancer weeks (they've both had bouts with them) complete with knowledgeable medical doctors on board to meet and ask any question. This week, it was filled with retired pilots, getting the rest they so well deserve and don't necessarily get on the job.