I have a French penpal and she came to my house in early May for 10 days. We had not met each other before then.Now it is my turn to spend time with her and her family. Her name is Dounia, a little older than me and she lives near Strasbourg, in a small village called Heidolsheim with her family.
So I boarded my first plane on my own and took the short flight to Basel which is a town in Switzerland but right on the border of Switzerland, Germany and France. She met me there and I automatically switched to French. It felt good speaking my second language once more, it didn’t feel strange, it felt as if it was meant to be. We talked about what we had been doing since we last met as we travelled to her village. Her family gave me a warm welcome and made me feel at home.
That same evening we drove over a bridge and into Germany, my first time in this country . We swam in the fresh cold waters of a small lake with many other people until the sun was hanging above the trees.
The house was very unique with vines flowing around the ceilings and a lot of light streaming through the many windows with beams criss crossing in random corners. I had my own room too.
The day after – Wednesday – Dounia took me to their closest town which was Sélestat. It is a beautiful town and is a tourist destination. It was unique and more German looking than French – as were all the communities in the area.
We then moved on to Colmar the next big town nearby. There were cobbled streets and half timbered houses lining each street. Even though it had too many tourists it was beautiful with it’s ‘mini Venice’, architectural landmarks, museums and the town in general.
Thursday we decided to have a museum day and visited the Unterlinden museum in Colmar. This museum is home to the Isenheilm altarpiece, several other paintings and altarpieces and here I saw my first real painting by Picasso.
The day after we drove up into the mountains to the castle Haut- Koenigsbourg. A medieval castle located in the Vosges mountain just west of Sélestat. It was fairly big perched on top of a huge rock at the peak of one of the mountains with a view over the Alsace Plain.
We hired a guide who did it well in French obviously and kept asking me if I wanted him to swap to English. It would have definitely been easier to understand but I didn’t struggle and he seemed impressed as he congratulated me many times. I like castles they are strangely calming and you can feel the history moving through the walls in most castles as you could here.
We then did a short drive to the butterfly gardens of Hunawihr. They had some exotic butterflies as well as chameleons which I love.
We only spent a short time here before going to ‘la fromagerie’ to get some proper French cheese which I’ve missed greatly.
Saturday was quite a chilled out day. We did pack for a camping trip but that never happened as it decided to rain that evening😂. We went to a festival not too far away and saw magic tricks and a night show.
Sunday was the day I taught (tried my best) Dounia how to dive which took a lot of patience but it was worth it 😂(bravo!). We stayed there for a few hours before we went to her mum’s aunties birthday party as she was 98 years old. I met a lot of the family and answered all their questions and ate a lot of the food that they generously offered me as I am vegetarian and they liked their meat.
First thing Monday we went to Europa-park, this theme park receives more than 5 million visitors a year! It is a great theme park with a great variety of rides and was obviously packed with people. The day was sunny and beautiful and we were rewarded with a beautiful sunset at the end of the day.
The day after we went to a piano and violin concert with people of all ages which was to be quite honest a great calming concert. We then visited some of their family and we ate lunch at their house and I talked to them (particularly one man who was quite interested in hearing about me playing the guitar). After that we walked around the three castles of Eguisheim which had a splendid view over the forests and the plain of Alsace.
Wednesday- my final day. I said my thank yous and byes to her parents and we took the train to a town called Mulhouse not too far away. We visited the train museum which happened to be the biggest railway museum in the world (🙄). They had quite an astonishing collection (my Grandad would have been jealous).
Next door was the electropolis electricity musem, again was a great museum.
We took the tram back into Mulhouse town and met up with my French teacher – Ursula. Ive never seen her in real life before (I have lessons on Skype) so it was good to finally meet her properly and her cute little girl. We talked in a café and she showed us some areas around town.
Dounia went all the way to the airport with me and waved as I walked through the customs. It was sad to say bye but I will never forget spending time with her 💙. Thankyou Dounia and family.