Busch Gardens: Europe in Williamsburg has a petite section of the park set up to look like a quaint town in France. A street lined with faux bakeries, patisseries, and shops is painted pastel shades of yellow, pink, and blue. The streets are cobblestone and the small sidewalks force you to walk in the middle of the “road” like a true pedestrian walkway.
I never thought that villages like this miniature lookalike still existed today; I assumed the park designed their France, Germany, and Ireland based on what towns looked like in the 1600s.
If you’ve never been to Europe, you’ll be just as pleased as I was to discover that quaint little towns that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale story actually do exist! Only today you’ll find modern stores like Zara and FNAC (an electronics big box store) instead of farmers and blacksmiths.
Supposedly a town that inspired the scenery for Disney’s film Beauty and the Beast, Colmar is oozing with charm. Around every corner you’ll see eye-catching details like signature half-timbered building style, a rainbow assortment of colors, flower boxes, fountains, and lamp posts.
Because we visited right after the new year, the city’s charm was exponentiated by Christmas lights, LED stars, red and green garland, and teddy bears adorning every inch of surface area.
We stayed in a spacious, modern, two-story airbnb in a large apartment building in the center of town. There was enough room for our 9-person team to comfortably stretch out, which was a nice break for some of us who live in cramped apartments. Everyone loved the looooong table that we could all fit at, which was honestly probably half the size of Whit’s and my apartment!
All of us were thankful for clear skies one day, which is a real rarity in French winters. We had planned to ride on the “little green train” that takes you on a 30-minute tour through town, but sadly it was closed for the season. Instead we explored the streets at a casual pace, stopping for vin chaud (mulled wine) and hot chocolate in the indoor market.
The food we found was hearty German-influenced winter fare, such as cheesy meat and potato dishes casseroles cooked in cast-iron pans. For faster food, there is a large (AMAZING) grocery store where you can pick up pre-made sandwiches and sushi, as well as a Paul (French sandwich/salad/pastry chain) and of course crepe shops. We also tried a Tunisian restaurant with heartfelt service and spectacular sweet mint tea.
The rest of our long weekend was spent resting in our home away from home, spending time with the Lord in prayer and Bible study, building relationships through games and meals, and recharging our batteries with movie-watching on the projector.
In sum, add Colmar to your eastern France/western Germany wish list. The two times of year I think it would be PERFECT are Christmas and spring (can you imagine all the flowers and bright sunshine??), but any other time it would still be cozy and cute.
Which fairytale villages are on your wish list??