Friday, March 25, 2011

Colmar Quaint

On the day after Carnaval, Jon and I decided to take advantage of his comp time and get some ski action, heading south to Switzerland, via Colmar, France. Although we had previously visited Strasbourg for a day and I had done pottery shopping in other Alsace villages, we had never visited the treasure of the Alsace region, Colmar. We made an overnight stop here and had a delightful afternoon and morning to enjoy this most charming town. So close to the German border, it has a great deal of Germanic influence in the half-timbered architecture, Riesling wines they produce, and even the food is similar.

Standing amidst the beautiful half-timbered houses with Rick in hand

After dropping of our bags and consulting Rick on the best place for a wine-tasting, we headed to a cute wine bistro where we were educated on the Alsace wines and cheeses of the region. Two of our favorites were the Pino Gris and Gewurztraminer, both with a bit of a spicy kick. We bought a couple bottles here, but then loaded up at the Cora, like a French Cosco, on our way out of town.

Enjoying a Gerwurztraminer at a wine bistro

We were so fortunate to have gorgeous weather and mild temps during our overnight and we could not take enough pictures of this town with eye-catching color and architecture every way you turn.  Colmar has a beautiful canal running through an area of town called Petit Venis.

Petit Venis
Colmar Alley

A view of our hotel (green building) in Petit Venis

We lucked out on some last minute deals at the Hôtel Le Maréchal on and very much enjoyed our stay in this romantic hotel with beautiful decor. The first thing I noticed when walking into the room were the beautiful timber beams across the ceiling and the 18th century style furniture. Jon walked in and immediately noticed the naked woman hanging above our bed. Of course, it's France! 

That evening, we had a fabulous dinner of Alsatian stew and escargot and afterward enjoyed walking around the town oh-so-strategically lit to showcase its beautiful buildings. 

The next morning, we headed to the one and only touristic site of Colmar (other than the city itself), the Unterlinden Museum. This quickly became one of my favorite museums in all of Europe with an excellent floorplan, in an old Dominican convent, and informative audio guides on the various exhibits. The vast number of medieval paintings were impressive, but the highlight was viewing the Isenheim altar peice by Grünewald. Just as every American knows the Mona Lisa, every German knows this work of art, displaying the crucifixion and burial of Jesus on one side and his resurrection and ascension on the other. Seeing it exhibited in the cathedral was especially moving.

Unterlinden Museum

Brief as it was, our visit to quaint Colmar, exceeded its expectations as we were able to view gorgeous architecture, partake in wine-tasting, explore the culinary delights of the city and even take in a bit of the museum culture. Now, onward to Switzerland!

Monday, March 14, 2011


One of the great things about living in Europe is partaking in the many festivals that are region-specific. While living in Wiesbaden, we did Fasching, in the Limburg region of the Netherlands, the equivalent is Carnaval. It is very similar to Mardi Gras festivities in the States, except everyone dresses up in elaborate costumes of color or characters.

There are usually lots of parades and events that take place all across the various cities, and Sittard is no different. Beginning on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday, all of Sittard is focused on the most important event of the year, Carnaval. Young, old and in between participate in the many activities and parties and of course we couldn't help but get swept away with the Carnavalsdagen as well.

On Friday night, we were spectators at a small German village's parade and on Saturday we kicked it up a notch and brought back an old Fasching favorite, Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, at a party in Maastricht.

On Sunday, we descended upon the Sittard parade with our party posse and enjoyed watching the many floats. Later, we made our way to the market square where the parade ended and the real partying began.

After one night and one day of this, I was about done, but for the Limburgers, this is the highlight of their year. For five days straight they wear costumes, march in parades, attend parties, and play Carnaval music non-stop.

It is truly an incredible event and for anyone that wants a taste of authentic European culture, enjoys dressing up, and wants to take advantage of more economical airfare - this is the time to come!

A Very Braxtonian Post

In case you haven't heard, Braxton Fabian Blue, came into the world on September 18th and is the cutest baby imaginable. Of course I can say this because he's my nephew and first baby on the Catlin side. He is pretty much the most adorable baby since, well, me. I first met him when he was a mere 8 weeks old in November and instantly fell in love. I got to see him again  just before turning five months during my last trip to Texas and discovered that he'd gotten even cuter - as if that is possible! He's now smiling, laughing and making all kinds of fascinating facial expressions. 

Some of you may be thinking, "hmmm, I wonder what spurred on Cathleen's motivation to do a post all about her nephew." Well, I'll tell you. It's pretty simple.... Braxton is worthy of his own post. That's right, he's that special and fabulous that I couldn't bear to include him in a run-down of the past several months. Some people perhaps may have wanted to accuse me of forgetting to include Braxton in my blog, but they would be terribly wrong. Oh no, he had to be highlighted as the best, most wonderful thing that's happened not only to the proud parents, but the entire Catlin Pack 7-now-8. Among exciting endeavors and special bonding moments between Braxton and me, included pushing Braxton in his stroller, making the fish face, enticing him to blow bubbles, tickling his little legs, carrying him, burping him and many more moments of pure joy.

All facetiousness aside, I enjoyed spending time with this little toot more than I can express and will certainly miss seeing him continue to grow and change over the next few months. 

I am one proud aunt and feel so blessed to share the joys of aunthood with Mandy. Here we are, the two aunts and momma, at a farewell lunch at Z Tejas before I left Texas. Although the lunch ended in plenty of waterworks, I am so happy to have the family that I have and look forward to the many adventures that the newest generation will bring.