26.05.2009 31 °C
My first time on the super fast TGV was as I anticipated. I expected the train to be comfortable, roomy and jet-like fast. My expectations were met and exceeded on all three accounts. This TGV left the hbf at 7:30am three Saturday mornings ago and arrived in Strasbourg 1,5hrs later. Once I arrived in France, I searched for my hotel. The first thing I noticed was how clean Strasbourg was. The second was how European! I was really happy to be here but skeptical at the same time. I didn't want to get too excited only to be let down.
After walking around and finding my cheap hotel, I dropped off my backpack and headed out immediately. I had no time to waste on this short two-day adventure. I went to the Tourist Information place, got a map and took off.
My first mission was finding the boat cruise on the River Ille. Second on the list was the Strasbourg Cathedral. I have to tell you, this was the hardest city to navigate yet! I am sure it was just me as I am horrible with maps but I found it almost impossible to get around using the supplied map. After getting lost about a billion times, but taking care of certain sites as markers, I used memory to guide me along.
Finally, I relented and asked a man to help me find the Cathedral. We ended up walking together to the city square and chatted a bit. He told me he was originally from Paris but came to Strasbourg for his job 17 years ago. It was nice talking to someone who was receptive and open.
Once at the old town square, I was able to see the Cathedral looming ahead very easily. I had no time to waste. I quickly made my way to the building and went ballistic with my camera. Such a pretty, impressive, gothic site.
I eventurally went inside and soaked up the atmoshphere.
Some pics in the market square, Place du Marché aux Cochons de Lait. (Marktplatz as Strasboug is VERY Germanic. It lies on the border of Germany (near Kehl) so French and German is acceptable here)
<--the infamous Maison Kammerzell. A well preserved Gothic relic of important France/German history.
Next was a cruise along the Ille. I had an hour to wait for the next open air boat so I took advantage of this and got a snack. I was starving but I wanted to wait to eat out of the city square, ie, tourist trap. So, I got a sweet instead. Since landing here, I have been bombarded with crepes. There are little kiosks that sell them all over Stuttgart and other places I have been in Germany but I always resist, wanting to eat the real thing....from France. Finally, I was able to sink my teeth into this delicacy. Of course I had the Nutella crepe. Oh...my.....fantastic! I think I closed my eyes in bliss a few times while eating the crepe...it was that damn good. All warm and gooy and chocolatey.
Before I got on the boat, there were some....street vendors that were the epitome of annoying! Trying to sell tourists their stuff. I mean, everyone's gotta make a living and eat right? But, when someone says no, they mean no! At least for me. I had to put on my unimpressed face to get one particular guy away from me. When that didn't work, I had to be rude and turn my back on him. I felt bad but damn......can't a woman enjoy her crepe in peace?
The cruise along the river was relaxing if a bit warm. It was brutally hot that weekend in Strasboug, so my head was baking by the time we were half way through the tour. It was really fun and informative despite the heat.
<--arte. The biggest television broadcast media centre that supplies France, Deutschland and other EU countries. Huge force in European tv.
After the cruise down the Ille, I wanted to see more.
--Ponts Couverts bridge
It was around 3pm so I had a lot of time left of the day. I decided to do a museum and broaden my cultural awareness. Big mistake. I went to the Musée Alsacien and HATED it almost immediately. I was so not interested in anything in there. The museum depicts the early life of the Alsace peoples which usually interests me as I love history but this place....was just lame.
<--inside the Alsacien
I have to tell you that after about 10 minutes I was searching for the exit and hard. I had to get out! Of course you have to tour the entire place in order to get out. At certain times I was so desperate for the exit that I felt tears spring to my eyes. I felt trapped in a world I was not interested in and just wanted to escape. It was horrible. Finally, when I saw, sortie (exit) I ran the hell out. It was like I was finally able to breathe again. Waste of my damn 5,00 euros.
After that museum hell, I needed a break. The sun was scorching, the temperature was super high and even though I was in one of the worlds most romantic countries, and I needed a time out. I found a bench in some park (I don't know the name) where I sat for about 10 minutes trying to decide what was next.
As I sat and rested, I reflected on Strasbourg so far.
-Fresh bread shops, open early. Lots of super fresh loaves, buns, Alsace Kougelhopf cake line the shelves.
-Men in white clothing walking down the street with big bushles of fresh french bread, out for delivery. I assume they are delivering to places like restaurants and hotels.
-Gorgeous chocolates on display. Bonbon shops. The sweets are a work of art themselves as they come in all shapes, colors and sizes. So pretty as they beckon tourists and locals alike.
-Beautiful, clean cobblestoned streets.
-Narrow, romantic alleyways. Elegance.
-And the clothes!!! French people, for the most part, know how to dress!! Everyone takes the time to dress and look their absolute best. I admired that pride.
-Fashion is France.
After my break, I explored some of the city some more. I took off out of the well known touristy areas and ventured more into the city, where the real Alsace was happening. I have to say that the city Strasbourg is just as pretty as its sister, old town.
I found myself in the old town again but this time at a street market. It reminded me of Kensington Market in Toronto, minus the fishy smell of fresh fish.
At around 7pm, I took off to check in at the hotel, where the guy who manned the reception acted very indifferent when he realized I couldn't speak fluent French. Damn, at least I tried! I guess it was a combination of the early morning travel, early mornings at work, working, going out at night and the hot sun, but I was exhausted at this point. All I wanted was bed but I decided to eat first. I was starving. Nope, I forgot to eat an official lunch after my gorgeous Nutella slicked crepe.
After walking around the hotel neighborhood for a good half hour, I settled at a Turkish place to eat. Sorry, but I will leave the real French cuisine for another time. I ordered verte peppersteak with frites for my dinner. It was great. The owner was so friendly and we chatted a bit as I ate. She eventually left me to it and I devoured my food while reading my latest book. After supper it was getting dark and I was too tired for more exploration so I took my weary body to a convenience store to buy water and then headed to the hotel. I tried to read but it was too much work so I just closed my eyes and let the sleep fairy take over (remember....Meet the Parents... ).