My cross countri(es) road trip dropped me in Stuttgart Germany, not a destination high on many European travel lists, but when visiting friends plans probably won't follow that of the Lonely Planet guidebook. This friend was one of the main reasons I was in Europe in the first place, a person I'd been promising to visit for nearly 10 years, and here I was finally coming through on my word.
The reunion was not that of two best friends, lovers or family, actually, Carlo and I had only spent a few short days together when he lived in Wisconsin. Carlo was a foreign exchange student at my high school, back in '06/'07 during my senior year. He showed up, gracing Greendale High school with his good looks and Italian charm. His host brother and I didn't really run in the same group of friends, but lucky for me everyone was friends to some degree at Greendale, so we ran into each other here and there. Although our friendship was short we managed to keep in touch for years and that's how I eventually found myself in the Hertz rental car office at the Stuttgart train station, not sure where we were going, but ready for an adventure.
It took us longer than expected to get the car, the woman behind the desk was a little slow, but I guess since we didn't actually have plans it didn't really matter. Carlo said he'd heard good things about Strasbourg France and it was only a few hours away, so why not. Unfortunately, the car was manual so he had to do all the driving, but I tried my best to play navigator, easy while we were still in Germany with the help of GPS. Once we crossed the border into France though, our phones were of no use. After a few wrong turns and detours we found our hostel, one I decided to book on the way, dropped our bags and then ventured to explore the town, although we weren't sure if there was much on offer.
My busy travel days were finally taking a toll on me and after a bit of wandering through the city and cool night air I wasn't feeling too hot. When we stopped at a cafe/bar for dinner and drinks Carlo scoffed at my tea, but my body thanked me. Our hostel wasn't cheap but the pile of pillows, black-out curtains, fluffy white towels and cozy comforters made it worth it. I slept like the dead and woke up feeling 110% better. For breakfast, we assumed there'd be a cafe within walking distance of the hostel, but apparently we were in the wrong part of town for that. We did a few circles, but finally found a small place for coffee and pastries. I have a admit I'm a fan of this caffeine-loaded, carb-rich breakfast thing, even if my waist line may not be.
I knew nothing about this place so I left it to Carlo to be my guide. We found our way back to the town center where there was much more life than where we'd come from and eventually wound up at the Cathedral. It was clear we were in the right place by the hoards of tourists, selfie stick vendors and street performers, same as every other town center I'd visited in the last 30 days. The Cathedral was impressive though.
Instead of worrying about what else to see in the city we started thinking about food, so glad my travel partner had the same priorities as I. Carlos found a few suggestions for where to eat in town, but once again I left it up to him to make the decisions and lead me there. He took me through Petite France, an adorable part of town filled with timber houses and cobblestone streets. After this it was food time, a trip advisor suggestion, Le Tarbouche, a Lebanese place that did not disappoint, the food was amazing.
We didn't really have anything left to do in this city so we decided to call it a day and head back to our car which was thankfully parking ticket free. This weekend seemed to be full of decision making and here we were with another, where to next? Although it wasn't on my horizon for this trip my short stop in France was a good one, it's always been a country low on my list, so this stop may have been just enough. Thanks to Carlo I was able to add one more country to my crazy list of places visited in this 30 day whirlwind, and also got to witness him showcase more language talents I didn't know he held.