Our end of year trip to Paris and Colmar, with a bit of Guangzhou, China.
  • Day1

    Guangzhou, China

    December 19, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    En route to France, for my brothers wedding lunch in Colmar - first stop, Guangzhou, China.

    We had an 18 hour lay over in Guangzhou before taking a connecting flight to Paris, so we took that opportunity to go out and explore the city!

    Before getting into the goodies of the trip, I'm gonna go on a little rant about some of the frustrating things that happened earlier in the trip.

    Ive always wanted to go to China, so even just for 18 hours just to get a taste of it was super exciting. However, our first trip here wasn't as relaxing as I thought it was going to be.
    We knew there was no google maps, uber etc before going over and we planned ahead by getting a VPN and downloading the apps we needed. But that didn't make things easier for us (I feel like we should have done more research before heading over, but we didn't think it would be that difficult to get around in China!). The VPN we used kept connecting and disconnecting, so it was really hard to figure out where to find things, like an atm or how to get a sim card. Luckily I spoke Cantonese at home and we were able to get help from the locals (as we were staying quite far away from the main area, people either spoke Cantonese or mandarin).

    So some tips before going to China:
    - Get some cash out before going to China in case there's no ATM's nearby
    - To get a sim card, you need to apply for it at a shop that provides a service for sim applications - we went to three different mobile stores before finding a shop that could process an application for us, no one seemed to direct us to the proper place.
    - You MUST have a Chinese mobile number to be able to connect to free wifi in China
    - Use DiDi app for taxi services. I suggest selecting the taxi option so can pay by cash. For trips reaching over 100cny using the express option, you have to prepay using a card or wechat pay (but the card takes so long to process and sometimes the screen just blanks out)
    - use Baidu maps to get around, although it's all in Chinese, it's better than nothing!

    Once we got some cash, a sim card and a taxi, we were on our way to the more relaxing and exciting part of the trip!

    Our first stop was Dian Dou De for some dim sum. The food here was amazing! We ordered some shrimp dumplings, siu mai, chicken claws, shrimp roll, tripe and tong sui. I've always loved dim sum, even back home in nz, but this was just amazing! It was nice try some authentic dim sum, where it was originated from. This restaurant started up in 1933, and from the looks of it, its still be a very popular place for dim sum.
    FYI, the menu was all in Chinese. As neither of us could read Chinese, the lady gave us an English version of it and she helped us select a few dishes. I wish we had more time in Guangzhou, there were still so many dishes I wanted to try, especially the ones you don't get in nz!

    Next, we made our way to the Chen Clan Academy. Entry fee was about 10CNY per person, and you need to bring your passport to purchase a ticket. The whole structure of the place was so beautiful and detailed. Each motif described a scene from a story - unfortunately I don't know what these were, if we had time we would have joined a one hour guided tour of the place. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our visit. We walked through all the different rooms which showcased some very impressive wood carvings, and fans and other household objects from the 19th century that were made out of ivory.

    Afterwards, we made our way to Beijing Road (well, tried to). We really miscalculated how long it would take us to walk there from the Chen Clan Academy, must've been about an hour or so? But the thing about being in a foreign place is that you don't realise how far you've walked because you're not familiar with the place, plus you get distracted by all the different things that you don't normally see! We walked past quite a few shops that sold tea leaves, tea pots (and tea kettles?!), vegetable markets, bakeries and very random shops that sold only remote controls. We did make it to Beijing Road eventually, but we only had time to grab some dinner before taking an hour long taxi ride back to our hotel.

    Even though we lost a bit of time trying to get things sorted, we did enjoy our day out in Guangzhou. The food and the sights we got to see were amazing. We'll take this experience as a learning curve. At least we know now what we need to make this a smoother trip next time we're back in China!

    We will be coming through to Guangzhou again in 2 weeks for our flight back to New Zealand, so we're hoping to see all the other attractions and try all the other food we missed out on this trip!
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  • Day2

    Colmar, France

    December 20, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    We flew from China to Paris this morning. Our original plan to get to Colmar was by train from Paris. However, there were strikes going on and our train was cancelled. We had to book a flight from Paris to Frankfurt where the rest of my family were meeting, and then travel 3 hours by car to Colmar.

    Once all the family members arrived, we were on our way to Colmar in a rented van driven by the brother in laws father. Once we got to Colmar, we checked into our air bnb, which turned out to be better than I expected! Its located close to the old town centre and close to where the Christmas markets are held. The buildings are stunning, especially with the Christmas lights and decorations. Old Germanic styled buildings and houses.

    We plan on visiting the markets early tomorrow morning, and from there, I'm not entirely sure what else we will be doing as my brother is planning this trip for us. I would love to try the carousel and ice skating though!
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  • Day3

    Colmar Christmas Markets

    December 21, 2019 in France ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    On the way to the a Christmas Markets this morning, we walked past Little Venice, which was about a minute walk from where we were staying. Its a beautiful little area, especially with all the Christmas lights and decorations, but of course it was crowded. At least we managed to get a nice picture there!

    The Christmas Markets were exactly how I had pictured them to be, I was just surprised that there were so many of them! There were stalls that sold Christmas decorations, pretzels, mulled wine, cheese, meats and other types of foods. We stopped by a pretzel store and got some cheese pretzels and a donut looking one. Some of the markets had rides for children and even a little pen with goats in them.

    We stopped by the Church while strolling through the many Christmas markets in the area. My brother in law is from Colmar, so it was nice to have him give us the history and information of the places we visited (and of course translate!). The church we visited was built in the 1100s, and you can see a giant storks nest just on the very top of it. There were a few grave sites still remaining around the church, but of course they have been emptied out to construct other buildings around the church.

    By the time we finished walking through most of the markets, it was about 5pm and it was already starting to get quite dark. We had a lovely home cooked meal made by my brother in laws parents. Tried out some of the many cheeses that were brought from the farmers markets earlier in the day - my absolute favourite was the Brie with truffle on the inside! That particular cheese is a specialty usually only made for Christmas, and costs about 80 euros per kg. It's totally worth the price!

    After dinner, we walked back through some of the markets to get to our air bnb. It was nice seeing the markets at night too, with all the decorations lit up. We walked past Little Venice again, but this time there were 4 swans in the river which made it look even more fairytale like.
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