It’s always a shock to hit city traffic when you’ve been in the country for a while. It’s very easy, without day to day stresses, to slip into a slower pace of life. It’s a pity there’s not time to pass this message on to the fool who almost hits us as we take a turn, the green arrow in our favour. Much cursing makes a fine substitute. From both parties. Sounded much better in French though…
We eventually settle and cycle into town. It’s a tricky journey: even though Strasbourg is set on water, there’s no direct river path to navigate from. The old city itself is surrounded by water on all sides then further dissected by series of canals and a twisting mediaeval street layout. The combination is very effective in making one appreciate the grid street layouts of home.
Strasbourg is gorgeous though, full of half timbered cottages, it’s the picture of charm,
but despite peak season technically being over, the city is packed. Crowds pour in and out of every edifice busily absorbing every detail. It’s not the first time Europe’s plaintive plea about drowning under the weight of tourism comes to mind.
We’re limited in what we can do – damaged foot in tow, flared temper to match. Rather than our (my) usual detailed assault course taking in all possible sights, we’re on a forced leisurely pace. A stroll through a market,
then lunch in a restaurant offering classic Alsace cuisine. The serves are enormous, coming out of the kitchen with groaning plates with huge sides following. Whilst I love this food, I stick to my goat’s cheese salad. Chris restrains himself and orders meatballs which come with an excellent potato side.
Later, we explore Strasbourg’s magnificent cathedral, built between the 11th and 15th centuries. A gothic masterpiece in pink sandstone with a 466 foot spire, it was up until the start of the 19th century, the tallest structure in western Europe.
It features an intricate astronomical clock which is only partially visible as it’s undergoing restoration.
With the old city growing around it, it’s impossible to get a full shot of the cathedral – only a drone at distance could do it justice.
Strasbourg appears to have good restaurant and shopping options – quite a number of fashion stores are intermingled with pattissiers and regional speciality offerings. They haven’t quite woken up to coffee and cake though, as none of the boulangeries or pattissiers have seating options.
With restricted walking, the only way for us to explore is the mini train. I need to explain: this is something we would usually steer well clear of. If you’re used to the freedom of movement that not being afraid of a long walk brings, being on the tourist mini train is an anathema, and it’s hard not to feel like a bit of a tool.
Until we see people on Segways. I’m pretty sure that they look sillier than we do.
We’re still having a better day than our poor driver – at one stage a little girl runs straight under the train. Only our glacially slow pace saved her from being crushed. Much judgement from the grey haired brigade on board – clearly having forgotten how quickly children can get into mischief.
As frustrating as the train is, the commentary is useful, talking us through the different quarters. Petite France is by far the prettiest. One of the oldest sections, it was once home to the tanners, set on the water.
Its name has an unfortunate history – it was named for the French soldiers who brought a syphilis epidemic to the city. Oh dear.
Restricted movement grates on us both by day’s end. The cycle home is lovely, if somewhat tense. Nothing that a few litres of wine won’t fix. Not our best day, one might say.