The first time we went to Europe to celebrate our five year anniversary, we thought of it as our “once-in-a-lifetime” trip. We just never could’ve imagined when we first started pursuing photography as a full-time career that it would eventually keep bringing us back across the Atlantic! We feel blessed beyond words to have clients who trust enough to fly us to some of the most beautiful destinations on the planet, and even more blessed to have the freedom and flexibility to extend our trips, explore and make memories together.
This blog has become like a big running journal for us, and has been one of the best ways for us to preserve our memories. As we started sharing about this trip on Instagram, we had so many of you asking for more information about it! Which towns we visited, where we stayed and what we saw, so that you could start planning trips of your own, or send your friends and family this way. And after exploring these little storybook towns, we couldn’t recommend Rothenberg, Germany or Colmar, France enough!
So, whether you’re actively planning a trip to Europe soon, or it’s still a far-off (but one-day) dream for now, we hope you’ll love seeing these two fairytale towns as much as we love sharing about them with you.
Since Amy was a little girl, she’s been a huge fan of Disney movies. She even used to have a collection of CASSETTE TAPES full of the soundtracks (which we resurrected on Spotify for this trip!) so it was only natural that she added, “Visit a storybook town in Europe,” to our bucket list.
When we looked at our calendar, and realized we had a few extra days without a wedding after we photographed a proposal in Paris, we knew we had to take advantage of the time and check it off the list!
First up, Rothenburg, Germany.
In college, Jordan took a German history class. He wasn’t interested in German history per se, but it was an eight-week semester (instead of sixteen) that concluded with a ten-day trip to Deutschland — so he was in!
On the trip, he made a German friend (surprise, surprise) who he’s kept in touch with for TEN YEARS. She made the recommendation for Rothenburg (pronounced Ro-ten-BERG). Danke, Katrin. Such. A. Good. Call. It’s like you’re German or something.
Rothenburg is called “Germany’s most German town” in large part (we found out) because the Allies didn’t bomb it flat in World War II in order to preserve it’s medieval buildings for posterity.
Shout out to the Allies. Posterity thanks you!
Even though some people like training through Europe, we love driving the countryside. ESPECIALLY ON THIS TRIP. Because of one word: autobahn. Where, for stretches, there are no speed limits. Just ask the Prius/go kart Jordan maxed out at 125 mph.
We spent two nights and one full day in Rothenburg. Thanks to a recommendation from our dear friend Rick Steves (well, in our dreams, we are friends), whose job we want to steal, we stayed at Hotel Klosterstüble at the quiet end of the main street — and we’d stay there again. It felt like Hansel and Gretel designed the whole thing.
Our day pretty much consisted of food and strolls through the most charming side streets you’ve ever seen. For breakfast, coffee and pastries. That’s the only answer in Europe. Brot & Zeit had maybe the best vanilla cream-filled donut/croissant we’ve ever had. This trip, we tried to stick with local drinks and traditional dishes everywhere we went — and we had mostly hits and only a few misses.
One of our hits was lunch at the Golden Griffen. We chose it partially because it had good reviews on Trip Advisor… but mostly because its sign looks like Gryffindor House from Harry Potter. We shared the schnitzel and noodles (thanks to Julie Andrews) and pot roast with sauerkraut. Both were the bomb.com And we don’t even really believe in using that phrase anymore. That’s how bomb it was.
For dinner, we missed. No, like we actually missed our chance to eat at the best restaurant in town (Zur Holl) because we didn’t make a reservation. Guys, the first night we rolled in, it was pitch. black. and NO ONE was on the streets. So we figured we were some of the only people visiting. Hmm… it must be off season! This place is even more small town than we thought!
Guess again. Everyone was eating dinner. With the reservations they made.
Four notes about the above two pictures…
ON THE LEFT… is the creme-filled pastry we told you about. Get that. But stay away from the dessert in the middle. They’re in every bakery in town, and they look so delicious, but they taste like a dried up funnel cake. Apply that money to buying more of the pastry on the left.
ON THE RIGHT… Amy’s grandpa was stationed in Germany after World War II (and he LOVES German food) so we texted him this picture while we were eating to let him know we were thinking about him. Last thing — and this is important! — the house wine and beer in Europe is always amazing. But it’s extra amazing in the Alsace region. Make sure to get the pinot blanc if you’re a wine drinker and the dark beer if that’s your thing.
The reason Amy’s smiling? In the middle of the afternoon, a crowd had gathered in the main town square. Why? For a local German orchestra to play their brass instruments, of course!
During a dog show of exclusively Shepherds and Vizlas, of course!
While live trained falcons flew around overhead, of course!
It was every German stereotype we could’ve ever hoped for wrapped into one moment.
So we got a pretzel… then coffee… grabbed a blanket (that they provided, of course!) and cheered them on.
Oh, yeah, we went to the Medieval Torture Museum, too.
God bless America. And 2017.
Here’s a video of our time in Rothenburg.
After Rothenburg, it was off to France!
We got a hotel for two nights in Strasbourg because it was on the way back to Paris from Rothenburg.
We didn’t plan anything else except more eating and walking.
That’s when Amy Googled, “Town Beauty and the Beast was based on.”
And it was ONE HOUR from Strasbourg. It was fate.
So, first thing in the morning, after getting chocolate croissants and Starbucks, we jumped in the car and headed to Colmar, France.
Where Amy got to SIT ON BELLE’S FOUNTAIN.
In that moment, she wanted little more than that provincial life.
And Jordan was like, “Just waaatch I’m goooing to make Belle mmyyy wiiife!”
The only disappointing part? We realized that the Disneyland and Disney World designers maybe aren’t quite as original as we once thought.
Can you believe this place is REAL?!
Quick tip: If you’re ever in the Alsace region, get a tarte flambé for lunch or dinner. It’s like a pizza… with CREAM on it. When paired with a glass of wine, it’s a little slice of heaven.
More tips: Eat outside whenever possible. Don’t pay for still bottled water at the restaurants. Ask for tap water instead (or like we might’ve done once or twice, smuggle water bottles you bought at the market in your bag!) Drink the house wine or beer. Just not too much. It’s strong!
THIS. This right here is why we don’t plan make plans anymore until we get to a European (or almost any) city. A street vendor was advertising $5 boat rides for 30 minutes, so we thought, What the heck! FIVE DOLLARS!!
And it was so wrong, that it was so right.
We got the entire French experience. Our male tour guide on the boat wore black leather from head to toe (including his hat). He casually smoked cigarettes WHILE GIVING THE TOUR. The 30-minute ride went maybe 100 total yards. Rubber duckies in little kids’ bathtubs move faster. Ad we loved every minute of it. Speaking of ducking, we had to actually duck when we went under the bridge because it was too low. Staying on birds for a moment, a swan did follow us the entire way from just a few feet off the boat. The best part? It turned around before the boat did because it knows the route and routine at this point.
It was the best five dollars we spent.
Just in case the town wasn’t magical enough, since we were there in late March, the cherry blossoms and magnolias were blooming all over France!
Just in case THIS was the fountain Belle sat on.
Shutter goals. (And a Mrs. Potts sighting.)
As if this town wasn’t Beauty and the Beast-y ENOUGH already… we met a local shopkeeper whose store is one half bookstore, one half MAKING PAPER ROSES BY HAND.
Better news? They don’t wilt.
Here’s a video of our time in Colmar. It just might be our favorite Instagram story memory. Ever.
To say the least, this trip exceeded ALL of our expectations. If you ever find yourself on the border of France and Germany, do yourself a favor and FIND ADVENTURE IN THE GREAT WIDE SOMEWHERE (please sing that in your best Belle voice).
International: Ireland • England • France • Spain • Italy • Greece & Turkey • Anniversary Photos: Venice • Italy 2.0 • France 2.0 • Vow Renewal: France • Switzerland • Iceland • Prague
Domestic: Nashville • Denver • Phoenix • Vancouver • Seattle • Vegas • Atlanta • Santa Barbara • Florida • Virginia • New England/New York • Sedona • San Diego • Nantucket • Boston • San Diego • Virginia • Arizona • Charleston • Disney Cruise