Travel Bug in Alsace-Lorraine
Strasbourg, France

After spending a week in England and three days in Paris, I continued on my 2001 European journey with my good friend Nick from Los Angeles. Our destination: Strasbourg, a major city in the famed Alsace-Lorraine region.  Friends who had traveled through Europe before had recommended Strasbourg to me, so my expectations were high.  It lived up to all my expectations and then some.  I can almost see why Germany and France fought over it.  Although France won in the end, the German influence is strong in this city.  You can see it in the architecture, the cuisine, and the prevalence of the German language.

Our visit began when we arrived at the train station in the early afternoon on a Monday.  After settling in at Nick's aunt's apartment we toured the cathedral, a beautiful Gothic structure (my pictures did not do it justice so they are not included here).   There is a tourist office near the cathedral which gives out a handy map of the city as well as general information.  From the cathedral square we wandered through downtown to the Petite France region and had coffee and cake along the canal.  That evening we had dinner with Nick's aunt at a local winstub (most likely Alsaerian for "wine room") called "Au Tire Bouchon" (to pop off the cork).  I had duck which was great. Nick had sausage with sauerkraut, a popular dish in that region.

We passed our second day walking around the lovely park L'Orangerie.  Here I had my first and only sighting of a stork, the bird of Strasbourg that appears on postcards and various souvenirs.  I'm not sure if it is the official bird of the city but it very well could be.  After the park we went to the nearby Council of Europe, a legislative body that is separate from the European Union. I was surprised to see that Ukraine is a member of the Council of Europe.  We took a bus back downtown and took a tram to Place Kleber, where we had lunch at a cafeteria called Pflunch.   In the afternoon we took a one-hour ride on a bateau decouvert (open-air boat) around the canal in Strasbourg.  It was reasonably priced and explained the history of the city and the sights through a multilingual audio guide.It was the first time I had ever gone through a working canal lock so I enjoyed that. Many people waved to us from bridges and from apartment balconies; I thought that was sweet.Of course I got a sunburn. That evening the three of us went out for tarte flambeé, a type of white pizza with onions and ham on a very thin, almost cracker-like pizza crust.  I had had it before in Germany (where it is called Flammkuchen), but I understand why my German friends and scores of other Germans occasionally drive across the border to have it in France.  After dinner we walked around and saw a group of people dance a jig in the streets outside an Irish pub, and stumbled upon a Russian-Armenian variety store where we had a beer and a nice chat with the owner.

On our third day, we spend the morning at the Musee Alsacien, a wonderful journey through hundreds of years of Alsatian life as reflected in replicas of bedrooms, sewing rooms, work rooms, and cellars as well as arts and crafts from the period.  Many of the artifacts had German writing on them (though whether it was German or the Alsatian dialect I can't say for sure).  After the museum we saw the clock in the cathedral strike 12:30. It's an astrological clock but part of it was not working the day we saw it.  In the afternoon we grabbed some sandwiches for lunch and then drove with Nick's aunt an hour away up to Mont Sainte Odile, a mountain with a church and memorial to a female saint who worshipped there. There were lots of tourist buses there.  On a clear day you can see Germany from there; we only saw the village below, Obernai.  After touring the mountain and chapel we drove back down the hill to Obernai for coffee and cake.  We had dinner at Nick's aunt's with her family to celebrate Nick's birthday--quiche (Lorraine?), salad, cheese and bread, a delicious chocolate mousse cake, and lots of wine and champagne.

The next day we dropped off our postcards at the post office near the cathedral, bought sandwiches for the road, and headed back to the train station.  I had to go to Germany and Nick was headed for Marseille.  It was sad to leave but hopefully someday I'll be back.


Houses along Petite France

The entrance to Petite France from the bateaux (note the wooden canal lock doors)

A little lake in L'Orangerie (the stork is the bird with the black bottom standing on the grass)

What appears to be a former palace, now a concert/event venue in L'Orangerie--if you look carefully you can see the birds' nests on the chimneys

Council of Europe--the building of the Rights of Man (human rights court)

Council of Europe--the assembly building

The view from Mont Sainte Odile


Strasbourg On Line

The Alsatian Gourmet