A Day in Frankfurt

After landing in Strasbourg at the end of my trip, I was faced with three choices— a six-hour bus back to Paris, two, six-hour buses to London, or a four-hour bus to Frankfurt. I decided to venture into unknown territory and cross the German border. I spent a horrible day at an airport hotel before heading for the city and a homestay. My trip to Germany instantly turned around, and I had a wonderful time visiting Frankfurt for a day and a half. Fortunately, between my homestay host and a group of friendly locals, I had plenty of recommendations on where to go.

ktie’s

kties
k’tie’s main seating area courtesy of k-ties.de

This French-inspired bakery makes the perfect brunch spot to enjoy freshly prepared cakes, quiches, salads, and the ever present German Apfeltorte (“apple pie”)—there’s something for everyone. I enjoyed a slice of their chocolate tart (absolutely divine). The gracious hostess smiled and blinked like Jeannie at our every encounter. Make sure to get there early!  By two o’clock when I arrived, cakes and tarts were all they had left. You’ll be lucky to score the window seat where you can watch the passersby on Textorstraße.

Deutsches Filmmuseum

film
My souvenir from Deutsches Filmmuseum. It plays the Pink Panther theme song!

Just a short walk from k’tie’s I found the Deutsches Filmmuseum. One of my favorite films, Metropolis, happens to be German and is considered one of the most influential films in history. The permanent exhibition takes you on a journey from peep shows, kaleidoscopes, cinématographea and mutoscopes to the green room (my favorite!), sound effects, and soundtracks. I was pleasantly surprised to find a genuine copy of the Metropolis score. You will doubtless found a souvenir or artifact from your favorite film. The museum also features a temporary exhibition and shows several full-length feature films in the basement every day. Film lovers could easily make a day of it.

Schreiber Heyne

germanfood
Frankfurt Schnitzel and Apfelwein from Schreiber Heyne courtesy of yelp.com

After a few hours at the film museum, it was time for dinner! Unbeknownst to me at the time of booking, Sachsenhausen is the food capital of Frankfurt. I was eager to try the local specialties, Apfelwein (apple wine) and Frankfurt Schnitzel. After scouring through reviews, I settled on Schreiber-Heyne. While some of the other restaurants in the area are more popular, Schreiber-Heyne maintains the highest reviews and for good reason. The food was delicious and the service impeccable. The staff seated me right away and answered all of my questions about the menu in English. I enjoyed a hearty meal of two schnitzel patties over a plate of fried potatoes and plenty of Frankfurt sauce, all washed down with a tall glass of Apfelwein. Though I was starving when I arrived, I couldn’t finish the meal to save my life. Delicious! It’s a spot frequented by locals, too.

If you go

k’tie’s http://www.k-ties.de/  Textorstraße 81, 60594 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Deutsches Filmmuseum http://deutsches-filminstitut.de/en/filmmuseum/ Schaumainkai 41, 60596 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Schreiber Heyne http://www.schreiber-heyne.de/ Mörfelder Landstr. 11 60598 Frankfurt, Germany

Where to Stay

Frankfurt hotels offer pretty cheap rates in comparison to most hotels. I was stranded for a full day and night at an airport hotel that I would not recommend.

Instead, I’d opt for homestay.com. There’s a great homestay in the Sachsenhausen area with an American-German family. The accommodation suits solo travelers. There’s no kitchen use, but what’s to worry with so many wonderful restaurants nearby.

What to Do

Museumsufer

Fortunately for tourists, most of Frankfurt’s museums are lined up in a near-straight line on an embankment on Schaumainkai bordering the Main river, called Museumsufer. If the film museum doesn’t pique your interest, you’re sure to find one that does. Across the embankment, you’ll find even more museums, including an archaeological museum and a museum of Frankfurt’s history.

Museumsufer Schaumainkai https://www.frankfurttourismus.de/en/Media/Attractions/Parks/Museumsufer

Dreikönigskirche

A beautiful gothic church, Dreikönigskirche, originally built in the 14th century, but demolished and rebuilt in 1875. It’s worth a visit if you make it to the museum area.

Dreikönigskirche http://www.hdk-dkk.de/ Dreikönigsstraße 32, 60594 Frankfurt am Main, Germany

 

Advertisements

Adventures in Feldberghof (And why you should always have Euros!)

I was told by the service representative at the Frankfurt Airport that this made a lovely story, so I’ll share :).

I arrived in Frankfurt on a Sunday, and thought hey why not go to an international church? From my time living in Eastern Europe, I realized that international churches are great places to meet English speakers and fellow Americans. So, after a near 2-hour adventure,  I arrived at the church just as the service ended and everyone was enjoying refreshments. Perfect timing!  In my defense, I did try to make it for the service.

I met a lovely English/German lady that we’ll call Sara who immediately started telling me the best places to eat and find entertainment in the city (which you can read about in my article, A Day in Frankfurt). As our conversation came to a close, she remarked what a beautiful day it was and since I already came to Oberursel (read German Suburbia), it would be great to visit Feldberghof, a hilltop restaurant and hotel overlooking the city. Sara and her family kindly offered to drive me to the bus stop.

Before I could think about it, I was packed like a sardine on a standing room only bus to Feldberghof. As I looked around at the abundance of German travelers with snowboots, sleds, and jumpsuits, I started to think my Converse, wraparound coat (sans scarf) and jeggings were a bit on the skimpy side. As we moved through mind-numbing traffic and picked up one chilly traveler after another, I began to reconsider.

Further up the hill, I started to think How could she do this to me? I tried to reassure myself that Sara meant well as the noonday sun transformed to darkness and snow.

FeldberghofTransition.png
This is what the transition felt like going up the hill. via yelp.com

Once I finally made it to the Feldberghof restaurant, I waited in a short line of travelers. The host grabbed and seated groups that averaged 5-10 people. When it got to me, he smiled and wiggled while saying in German that I should “get in where I fit in.

The place was packed with German families from Frankfurt enjoying a day in the snow. I found a seat next to a German family who gave me the death stare when I placed my things in the seat next to me—they were saving for a friend. I was soon joined by a family of three, two boys and their father, who unbeknownst to him, would serve as translator for the duration of our meal.

The staff smiled and yelled what I can only imagine was we’re coming to take your order! several times before actually coming to take my order and that of the family next to me. I had the most delicious schnitzel and fries, which I hoovered without anything to drink.

Finally, time to pay…and this is where the story begins! I handed over my credit card to an enthusiastic—Nine! Eurokarte! (German for No! European card!). I told them I don’t have one.

movie_astro
Ruh Roh Reorge via jetsons.wikia.com

I was asked another 3 times between two staff members if I had another card before the host (who, at this point, I gather was also one of the owners) suddenly found his English and asked why I didn’t have cash. I pointed to the credit card machine on a table nearby and explained that I assumed credit cards were accepted when I saw it (especially since Sara mentioned that it’s a popular tourist spot).

They asked, What can we do? So, I suggested, How about I come back tomorrow and pay? I finished my food, provided them with my contact information and my hotel information, and promised to come back the next day.

They smiled as I left, but I don’t think they believed me. To the always organized and prepared Germans, this was a huge no-no. The owner patted my arm on my way out as I apologized and reassured him that I’d return the next day.

Enter the Frankfurt Airport customer service staff member. Staying at an airport hotel nearby, the airport was the closest metro stop. I made my way to the customer service counter and explained my story, to which the representative replied And you’re actually going to go back and pay?!?! Feldberghof was a 2+ hour trip from the airport. I remembered how to get there, save the number of the bus I took.

On an even colder day, I ascended to Feldberghof for the second time. The devil on my shoulder whispering the entire time, Fuggedaboutit. At this point in my trip, I was sure that I would never return to Germany (the reason why is for another post!), so it seemed it wouldn’t matter. Fortunately, good beat out evil that day. Finally to Oberursel, the bus is right there. But, nooooooo. Suddenly it’s driving away. I find a young kid (always your best bet for an English speaker) and asked if that was the bus to…he finished my sentence. That was our bus, and it just took off without us. The next bus would be here in an hour.

Eureka! The local tourist center. I’d wait in there until…Wait, it’s Monday. It’s closed. Everything in the vicinity is closed! My cold feet eventually flagged down a cab (a decision I would come to regret later on in my trip), and I paid for the most expensive 10-minute cab ride in my life.

When I finally made it to Feldberghof, I found a much smaller crowd. Half of the restaurant was closed off and I couldn’t find a familiar face from the day before. Finally, I spotted my waitress and greeted her with a friendly hello.

excitedwave.gif
Hey! Hi! OMG!

via GIPHY

In return, she gave me the So What? Stanley stare…

stanley.gif
And…?

via GIPHY

I first handed her the receipt, then the cash that I owed. She smiled, said bye, and that was that. I’ll spare you the details of the next hour I waited at a snow-filled bus stop for the bus down the hill. You can view a video I made while coming down the hill from Feldberghof.

Bus_stop_in_heavy_snowfall_area_Hyogo_Japan.JPG
Picture me here. But in Germany. With snow INSIDE the actual bus stop. via wikicommons

The moral of this story is I had Euros with me at any given moment for the rest of my trip—1 euro coins, 2 euro coins, 100 euros conveniently broken into 5, 10, 20 and 50 euro bills. And when a shop owner shook their head Nine to my BofA card, I smiled and proudly handed over my euros.

A huge thank you to the staff at Der Feldberghof for trusting me to return to pay for my meal!

A Day In Strasbourg

I instantly fell in love with the diversity of the people, picturesque views and friendly residents on my first trip to Strasbourg last year. Located on the border of Germany, Strasbourg is a cute little storybook town connected by a tramway. If you’re going to Paris anytime soon, make the time for a day trip to Strasbourg via the Ouibus. Take the 11pm to 6am overnight bus from Paris, spend the day there and take the overnight bus back. Here’s what to do when you get there…

Les Mains Dans La Farine

Grab a pain au chocolat with Krispy Kreme-esque glazed sugar for just 1 euro. There are lots of other breads and pastries to choose from and the bakery serves a steady flow of locals throughout the day, which is always a good sign! They open at 6:30am. It’s located just two tram stops from Etoile Bourse where the Ouibus will leave you, and in the spring and summer months could make a nice morning walk.  16 Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre, 67000 Strasbourg, France Tramway Stop: Homme de Fer

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg

A trip to Strasbourg wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. This gothic cathedral is IMHO much more aluuring than Notre-Dame de Paris.  Light a candle, take in the archcitecture, watch the automaton at noon. The cathedral occasionally offers historical films and presentations that you can read about on their website. Enjoy a sprawling nativity scene and splendid decorations during the holidays.  Place de la Cathédrale, 67000 Strasbourg, France Tramway stop: Grand Rue

Pâtisserie Christian Strasbourg

Pâtisserie Christian is just steps away from the cathedral, on the corner of Rue Mercière. Outside of lunch hours (11:30am to 2:30pm), you’ll be limited to tea and dessert. My favorite tea is Les Temps des Fleur—a delicious, aesthetically pleasing blend of flower petals. If you’re looking for souvenirs, Christian has hot chocolate spoons! They’re basically wooden spoons enclosed in the chocolate of your choice (dark, milk or caramel) that you stir into warm milk and  voila! chocolat chaud. At 1.50 euros a pop, you can’t beat the price. 10 Rue Mercière, 67000 Strasbourg, France Tramway Stop: Grand Rue

christian
Hot Chocolate Spoon

Kehl, Germany 

Just minutes from Strasbourg, cross the beautiful Passerelle des Deux Rives (no passport necessary) and walk through the park, up the Weisstannenturm Kehl where you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking view. Both activities are free! Tramway stop: Jean Jaures (then take bus 21 to Kehl Bahnhof)

View from Weisstannenturm Kehl
View from Weisstannenturm Kehl

As I write this, I’ve just left Strasbourg for the second time.  Fun anecdotes to come on the blog soon!

Have you visited Strasbourg? What did you think about it?

When to Take On Cheap Travel

My flight to France costs $229 and probably the only reason I was able to afford going to France this summer. If you’re wondering whether cheap travel is for you, here are a few things to consider:

When you can tolerate pain and suffering – My body ached throughout my entire trip and it was due not only to the cheap seats I scored, but also the time and amount of travel I did to save, taking buses and hopping on multiple short flights as opposed to one grand long flight in business class. If you are short or don’t have extraordinarily long legs, than you may be able to hack it.

When you’re traveling ground and need Wi-Fi. Much to my surprise when it came to internet access, the buses had trains beat. My trip on Ouibus, while hampered by a full bus of snoring passengers and mysterious smells, had seamless WiFi from start to finish. I was actually able to get some work done. Though my trip on SNCF, was much faster, I stared out of the window on the open country side wishing I’d packed a book in my carryon.

If you can fit everything in your carry-on.  The most important thing to remember about cheap airlines is that you’ll have to pay a very hefty fee for any bags (even your 1st), so I planned to bring everything in a carry-on.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cheap airlines I used, Wow Air (Iceland) and Norwegian, were not sticklers about the carry-on weight and size requirements. In fact, as long as your carry-on luggage looked remotely like a carry-on, you were allowed no questions asked.

I suspect this may be a different case if and when the flight is full, which neither of mine were.

All said and done, I’d probably avoid cheap travel unless I had to get somewhere and that was the only way I could afford it. I felt horrible throughout my trip because I traveled so extensively and so poorly (I could’ve used a good night’s sleep in business class) and missed out on souvenirs because I didn’t have room in my carry-on. However, if you’re making a quick trip that doesn’t require a lot of travel, a cheap airline may be right for you.

 

 

Cheap Travel Review: Ouibus, Norwegian and WOW Air

I recently took a trip to Paris, Strasbourg, Honfleur and Kehl (Germany) via Norway and Iceland. Did I mention that was all in 6 days?! All in all, I spent less than $2,000 including airfare and minus extensive planning (I bought my return ticket 3 days before I left)—only possible with cheap travel services below.

Ouibus

Pros – Friendly staff, excellent Wifi

Ouibus (formerly ID bus) was the only way I was going to get from Paris to Strasbourg for a reasonable price. Our driver was amazingly friendly, given the late hour. The trip was pleasant; the Wi-Fi was impeccable and the bus wasn’t full, so I got 2 seats to myself.

Cons- Long and uncomfortable

Given that my trip was from midnight to 6am., I naively expected to get some shut eye and boy was that hard, even with 2 seats! It could just be me, because the guy next to me sure had no trouble sleeping as was evidenced by his snores.

Overall, Ouibus was pleasant, our trip was on time and I’d probably take it again just not after a 14-hour flight.

FEB 2017 UPDATE: I took Ouibus again last month and it was just as fabulous as the first time! I also took Flixbus. Check out my Ouibus vs Flixbus comparison here.

Norwegian

Pros – In-flight entertainment and Drinks

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still got drinks and in-flight entertainment on low-price carrier, Norwegian.

Cons – Service, Timeline, Meal system

Sadly, that is where my happiness with Norwegian ends. The Ouibus driver beat the Norwegian flight attendants in every point of customer service. Also, the fact that you have to purchase your food online before the flight or starve is ridiculous!

I had high hopes for Norwegian, but because they’re among the more expensive low-cost airlines, I will probably never fly them again, even if I go to Scandinavia.

WOW Air

Pros – Impeccable Service

The flight attendants on WOW Air are something else. Not only are they beautiful and stylish, but incredibly kind and made, what was otherwise a very unpleasant flight experience, tolerable.

Cons – Inflight entertainment, card services

The payment system was broken on WOW Air, which meant no food without cash. The only option for in-flight entertainment was an $18 iPad you could rent with 6 movies on it. If there was any leg of the trip that I was ready to pull my hair out, it was this one.

I would really love to say I’d fly WOW again, but I don’t think I could bear it again no matter how nice the flight attendants are.

FEB 2017 UPDATE: I did it again. Yes, I did. I took WoW Air. In the time since my last flight, Netflix decided we should all be able to download videos and this made my flight 100x more bearable. Staff was amazing as always. Yet, I’m still telling myself I don’t know if I can do this again (this = cramped quarters, limited food & entertainment, next to cranky passengers, etc.,)

Have you ever used Ouibus, Norwegian or WOW Air—What was your experience?