One of the benefits of making friends while traveling is having awesome new friends. A second is having very good reasons to visit places that might otherwise be off your regular radar.
At the invitations of people met while on the road we were encouraged to venture into smaller cities and towns that we hadn't considered, and sometimes hadn't heard of, and in each found different but equally good ways to pass the time.
I now know I prefer country to cities, hands down. The great part about Europe is that even when you live in a small village with only a few hundred people it is still fully accessible to an area where you can get all of the city necessities. A few examples of such villages;
Heesch was so good because we got to put our feet up for a few days and take it easy. I know what most of you are thinking, "Put your feet up, seriously?" Well, you would be surprised how exhausting it is to travel. You're rarely in a comfortable bed, in order to save money you create the longest itineraries with unheard of layovers, etc. etc. etc.
Anyway, back to the feet up part. We played cards, watched movies, drank numerous coffees, and took slow strolls in the rain. This still counts as taking in culture, even though we weren't surrounded by a bunch of other foreigners who were snapping pictures everywhere. (At least that's what I tell myself).
Rain kept us mostly indoors, but Heesch turned out to be the perfect haven for getting over that nagging cough and lightening the section of my bag dedicated to reading material load.
Located in Upper Normandy you can find Sommery... but you'll need an incredibly detailed map. I think the population is between six and eight hundred and it's about 30 minutes north east of Rouen pronounced: "rrrrrrrrrrhhhhhnnnnn" like the sound an engine makes.
I could move here. It and everything you have in the area is divine. Culture, food, scenery, life is just hard to beat.
Sommery meant easy train access to the aforementioned Rouen, site of Joan of Arc's death, and home to plenty of history. And as an added bonus (as if a full fridge and beds in a country cottage weren't enough) our cute as a button hostess finagled some guest insurance so we could borrow her car for a day while she was stuck at the office. I'm a over of the European train system, but for getting down and up Normandy's northern coastline, it must be a ROAD TRIP!
University towns have the best energy! The students all have such infectious attitudes and it might be because they live in such an inspirational place. Take an afternoon to wander along Philosopher's Walk (Philosophenweg). All the while you'll be able to see the castle, old town, and river valley. I assure you inspiration in some form or another will strike you.
Being the guests of a German student had other perks too! Fun nights out, access to the Mensa (delicious student dining hall), and an invite to some human-meets-street art.
Please give us the chance to return the hospitality! Thank You sooo much Lawrence, Emily, Felix, and to your families and roommates for putting up with us and showing us your worlds. Hello to all the other friends we hope to meet along the way.