Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary


Driving to Karlsruhe, Luneville, and Nancy

January 26, 2008

Written February 17, 2008

Dear Friends and Families,


We're decided to drive to Paris! Well, more precisely we decided to drive toward Paris, but not actually try our luck at navigating that madhouse. The plan was to drive to a little town on the Rhine River Friday night, and then spend the weekend in Nancy, in the heart of France's Lorraine Valley. Monday we would take a high-speed train for the jump over to Paris. A good plan and, as it turned out, a path we'd recommend.

Except for the "little town on the Rhine River" part. We had looked up someplace about the right distance from home and, from nothing more than internet descriptions, concluded that the Schroeker Tor hotel in Ludwigshaven was the right distance, a decent price, and looked like the typical German gasthaus we have gotten used to. And, they had vacancies.

We left home Friday afternoon and zoomed along the A5, A83, A6, and A5 Autobahns. In fact, "zooming" was limited to the off-the-beaten-path A83, since all main German autobahns, the single digit ones, seem to be very crowded on just about any Friday we try. No problem, we let our GPS navigator guide us to Ludwisghaven, expecting a quaint, old village, dating from the time when King Ludwig did indeed have a "hafen" or harbor there on the Rhine. That was then. Now, the Rhine is a center of German industry and Ludwigshaven is a basic, blue-collar neighborhood. The Schroeker Tor was a very basic, commuter-train-station hotel, free from charm or interest.

We took one look and decided to test our GPS' ability to find OTHER hotels nearby. Good theory, but all we found were similar neighborhoods and similar gasthauses, many of them closed for "the season" (what season?). Eventually, we remembered one of the travel differences for Europe vs America: in America, staying on the outskirts of town is doable, even preferable while in Europe, look for hotels in the center of town, preferably in the largest town in the neighborhood.

Wagner slept here.


That's how we ended up at the Kaiserhof Hotel in Karlsruhe. A lovely old hotel, impeccably maintained, just off the main square of Karlsruhe, a fair sized university and business city. Even here, it was "off season", so we were offered the corner room favored by the composer Richard Wagner. (His friend Richard Strauss would often stay in the room next door.) Downstairs, we joined the dinner crowd and enjoyed a nice meal at the end of our long day. (http://www.hotel-kaiserhof.de/en/linke_navigation/index.php)

Hotel view.

Lesson learned: stick to cities and try to find out where old artists stayed.


On Saturday morning, we headed across the border toward Nancy. Since we had a bit of time, we told the GPS navigator, affectionately called "Gertrude", that we wanted to avoid freeways. This is something I would never try with plain maps, but with Gertrude's technology, we managed to wander through rural France, with hardly a hitch. French Lorraine, and its neighbor Alcace, remains almost German as both have gone back and forth for centuries between French and German rulers.


We stopped briefly in Souffleheim, to look at the French-German houses and to check out some of the local pottery. We didn't see anything we couldn't live without, primarily because we've toured and bought in this region before. There's only so many ceramic stew pots one household needs.

Another hour or more of driving brought us to Luneville and a wonderful lunch stop. Not only that, but we managed to squeeze in a "full European tourist stop", with a castle, a square and a church!

The castle, a chateau actually, was built in the early 18th Century by Leopold 1st, the Duke of Lorraine. (Our own villages' Schloss Weissenstein was built about the same time and in a very similar style.) It seems that Leopold had upset both the rulers in Nancy to the west and those in Strasbourg to the east, so he settled on middle ground at Luneville. I'm sure a visit in Spring or Summer, when the gardens and trees are full, would be better, but our Winter day was bright and sunny and we seemed to have the grounds all to ourselves. In fact, we seemed to have the whole town to ourselves.


For the required church visit, we stopped in the church of St. Jacques. This mid-18th Century church has been recently restored and was bright and cheery -- not exactly the way old churches are done back home, but apparently quite traditional in France.

Finally, for lunch we joined the crowd at "Les Bosquets". Despite the fact that Marianne and I WERE the crowd, the kitchen managed to put out a wonderful meal and, of course, the service was impeccable! Another advantage of off-season travel.(http://lesbosquets.free.fr/index.php)

All in all, a good stop and now we could turn Gertrude on to find Nancy, our weekend goal.


See you next diary.


John & Marianne

Other websites:

-- Karlsruhe:http://www1.karlsruhe.de/Tourismus/index.php?cmspage=0&setlang=en&show=0

-- Luneville: http://www.ot-lunevillois.com/ (French, but it has a litttle, non-finctioning British flag, promising a translation?)


Diaries - Travel - Photos

Previous Diary - Next Diary