We crossed over from francophone Switzerland back into German-speaking CH, and then over into northeastern France, to the region of Alsace. A little Bed & Breakfast, that also serves dinner by advance reservation only, stands at the edge of the tiny village of Rathsamhausen le Haut, outside the larger village of Baldenheim, which is near the town of Sélestat, near the bigger town of Colmar, near the city of Mulhouse. The place names don't sound very French in this part of the country - it's passed too many times back and forth between Germany and France.
Having reserved for dinner for the first night, we sat in four of the 13 chairs around one long wooden table (une "table d'hôte," as they call it). The rest were filled with a couple from the south of France (St. Tropez), a couple from northwestern France (Brittany), a Belgian couple, and a family from Germany. I was amazed to realize that not only did our family speak some of both of their languages, but David had also actually lived in all of their home countries. The French and Belgian couples didn't speak any German, and the German family didn't speak any French, so we were able to be a bridge, except that the host placed us at the opposite end of the table from the Germans. So all the conversation that first night was in French, except when the host would translate his culinary explanations into German. One very interesting social experience was when the conversation turned to World War II - with Germans, French, Belgians, and Americans at the table. People were disagreeing about how much bombing had been necessary in various parts of France. We Americans just listened, while the mid-aged French innkeeper and the elderly Belgian man had strong opinions. Since the conversation was all in French, I don't think the Germans understood much.
The next morning, people came down at different times for breakfast, so we got to converse with the friendly Germans, when it also became apparent that they spoke quite good English (except for the 11-yr-old daughter, who had only taken it for two years in school). The Breton couple did not care to try their very rusty and basic English, although they understood a bit, so we spoke in French with them. It was most intriguing experience, and really shouted loudly of the fantastic benefits of learning languages. Communication possibilities! Another funny note - the German family spoke to their dog with a few Spanish words, because, as they explained, she could distinguish them better than if they were shouting the same German words as everyone else at the park...so they were constantly saying, "Aqui!" instead of "Hier!" (Come here)
On our one full day in Alsace, we wandered off into the hills to look for ruined castles (the kids argued there was no reason to pay to see a castle when there are plenty of free ones, never mind the disarray), and found the beautifully situated Château de Frankenbourg. Some historians think that perhaps Clovis, King of the Franks, might have built this castle in the 400s, upon his conquest of Alsace, but there is no official mention of this structure until 1123. There are also traces of the Romans round about.
We walked uphill through a golden forest landscape raining with leaves for 50 minutes to the summit. I had gotten fully into my cold at this point, so I brought my box of tissues, but had enough energy for the excursion. We picnicked inside the castle, under the open sky, and the kids engaged in plenty of swordplay with their newly found French walking staffs.
At another stop, the kids kicked together an Alsatian leaf pile and leaped with delight.
More of my Alsace photos.