When there’s more to the story… (Strasbourg/Colmar, France)

Not my usual type of blog post but an important one nonetheless. I wrote in my bio that I would share the highlights and lowlights of my travels, so here it goes.

Back in December I took my first overnight solo trip in ages. Last year I was reflecting on how I haven’t really traveled on my own. I’ve done day trips across the UK and to Paris which I really enjoy, and the only time I can think of where I went away on my own was to New York City. I was living in Canada and went for a few days in December to soak in Christmas in NYC. It’s a fond memory but that was about ten years ago. And when I was reflecting last year on a solo trip, I was thinking the more long haul, ‘I took a year off to travel’ type countries. Far away, new culture, new friends etc.

Anyway, last summer during the Eurostar seat sale I booked a trip to Paris to finally live my dream of visiting Colmar in France for the Christmas markets. I was in my late teens/early 20s when I first saw photos of Colmar and it looked magical. Since then I’ve had it my mind that I would visit one day. Despite being back in England for almost eight years and much closer to Colmar, I had never actually been. That’s always the way isn’t it? You live close to something iconic or on your bucket list but because it’s so accessible, it’s not a priority.

The plan was to take a local train from Paris to Strasbourg, a city also well known for its Christmas markets (probably more than Colmar). I looked on Airbnb and found a place located right in the middle between Strasbourg and Colmar. It was in a small village surrounded by hills and vineyards and felt very solo travel-esque, so I went ahead and booked the apartment.

That was short lived and I later came to realise that actually the location wasn’t ideal for this particular trip and what I wanted to do, so I ended up cancelling and booked another place in Strasbourg which was more central and walking distance to the Christmas magic.

Now, there were more blips along the way which made the trip challenging…

  • The Eurostar was delayed en route which made me miss my next train to Strasbourg.
  • When I got on the train to Strasbourg I asked the man sitting behind me if this was the fast train or slow one. He looked up at me, said nothing and then looked straight back down at his phone. I repeated the question but he continued to blank me and avoided eye contact. It was very bizarre and so rude. I actually felt quite hurt by it and couldn’t understand why he chose to ignore me like that.
  • I realised I still hadn’t received my check in info for the accommodation. When I messaged the host, they notified me that my booking was for 2023, not 2022.
  • I had to take a few minutes to process what I had just done, because it was almost 7pm and I had nowhere to stay. And I was on my own visiting somewhere new.
  • I quickly scanned bookings.com for somewhere, anywhere centrally located so I could just arrive in the city and head over to the hotel. But because it was Christmas in Strasbourg there was nothing reasonably priced left. At this point I just needed to feel safe and comfortable, so of course, that came at a price. You live and you learn I suppose.

These setbacks definitely knocked my confidence. I tend to overthink at the best of times and one of the reasons I wanted to go somewhere on my own is so I could learn to not dwell and just figure it out and move on. It all worked out in the end but I found it hard to enjoy the trip as it was a short one. I was too focused on getting through my days and making sure everything went to plan.

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved Colmar and Strasbourg. I had moments of feeling so grateful and happy to be there and I felt proud I was there on my own. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t unbelievably happy to be back at Kings Cross on home turf. I feel sad admitting that, but I remember breathing a sigh of relief (literally) that I knew my surroundings again.

                      Colmar, France                                                                    Strasbourg, France                 

I was contemplating sharing this trip but it’s important to talk about the times it doesn’t always go to plan. It’s interesting how sometimes we show just a snippet of something on social media or to friends, but there’s actually a bigger back story.

I do however, want to share a few tips about Strasbourg and Colmar because it’s beautiful and worth a visit, especially at Christmas if you like markets.

  • it’s best to stay in Strasbourg as it’s bigger with more restaurants, cafes, bars to enjoy after the market
  • the markets close around 8pm (much earlier than I expected)
  • the train from Strasbourg to Colmar is only 30 mins and quite regular (I booked all my trains in France via the Trainline app)

Colmar, France

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