FIRST THINGS FIRST...
We arrive at the Basel/Mulhouse airport (via an Air Transat direct flight from Montreal to Basel/Mulhouse), get in the car and head north to Strasbourg. Everything is good….until, my hubby drops the GPS. The bitch now thinks we’re in the middle of a vineyard (not a bad idea, note to self: go to a vineyard tomorrow) and takes us way off of our route.
I’m cursing the entire drive, since this is our first day of 19 days on a driving trip, and with no GPS. Not. Going. To. Be. Fun. I pull out the iPhone (thank God I got the international data plan) and she gets us to our hotel. Which was in the middle of a pedestrian zone. What an adventure that was (not!). So was parking a block away in one of the darkest parking garages and narrowest parking spots I’ve ever been in.
It sits on the border of France and Germany and I had to stop and wonder which country we were actually in. Almost all of the signs are in both French and German - kind of reminded me a bit of Montreal……on second thought, scratch that, Montreal signage is pretty much français seulement. Back to Strasbourg. The city has changed hands for centuries between France and Germany and the result is this beautiful city in the middle of the River Ill, where you can leisurely stroll the narrow, winding streets and admire the beautiful German and French architecture.
Our hotel in the Old Town: Hotel Rohan which was right beside Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg
YOU'VE GOTTA SEE...
VIEILLE VILLE (OLD TOWN)
We stayed in the Vieille Ville at Hôtel Rohan. Literally a 30-second walk from the hotel is the imposing Cathédrale Notre-Dame. Out of all the Notre-Dame cathedrals, to me, this one is the most impressive. This gothic-style cathedral with a pink sandstone façade, sits in the middle of a busy square surrounded with museums, restaurants, cafes and shops. At 10:15 pm and 10:30 pm, don’t miss the free “And Then There Was Light” animated light display show on the façade of
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg
From there we headed southwest in search of this famous area to see if it lives up to the hype. Wow. Bridges, canals, narrow streets, half-timbered houses accented by vibrant flower boxes…..felt very fairy-tale like and I had to restrain myself from bursting out into some Disney princess song. La Petite-France is easily one of the prettiest cities in all of Europe.
LA CAVE HISTORIQUE DES HOSPICES DE STRASBOURG
As an Anglo doing a literal translation, this made absolutely no sense to me. A historic cave in a Strasbourg hospital? Um, what? It’s pretty much exactly that, but better. It’s a wine cellar, created in 1395 underneath the ancient Strasbourg hospital. Free to get into, if you can find the entrance! Thanks to the trusty internet and a TripAdvisor review, we were able to find it (you need to under the clock tower, then right at the black iron gates……then you’ll see a sign for it).
YOU'VE GOTTA EAT...
The food and wine here is a bit of a mish-mash. Your best bet for an authentic French/German cuisine experience is to go to a Winstub (literally wine lounge),
Wines: are white and sweet, such as Reislings and Gewürztraminer.
Beers: an alchemy of its own, Alsatian beers, like Mützig Old Lager and Edelweiss Blanche are absolutely wonderful.
Baeckaoffe: literally means “bakers oven”, a kind of stew dish with different types of meat, potatoes, vegetables and spices marinated overnight in white wine, covered with a basic dough/crust and baked for a few hours on low heat.
Choucroute (sauerkraut): sliced fermented cabbage served with salted and smoked meat and potatoes.
Flammekueche (tarte flambée): a regional specialty, which is basically a distant cousin of pizza.