Strasbourg France was the terminus of one of our trips and the beginning of another. We entered Strasbourg by ship, after a lovely three-day cruise of the Mosel and Rhine rivers. After one all-too-short day in the beautiful, fun city, we rented a car and headed south, along the Alsace Wine trail through countless numbers of pretty towns, where we had chances to explore Alsatian foods and wines.
Old Town Strasbourg and La Petite France
We spent a day in this beautiful city. The good news is that we are very glad we spent time in the city. The bad news is that the city is too beautiful and too much fun for a single day.
The Old Town area in the center city is filled with 500-year-old pastel and half-timber buildings. Many of the buildings house innumerable restaurants, cheese shops, wine stores, charcuteries, boulangeries, foie gras shops, and all other venues for celebrating the region’s foods and wines.
The La Petite France neighborhood is built around a network of canals and guarded by imposing towers and is particularly beautiful.
Notre Dame Cathedral. The 466-foot tall cathedral is the centerpiece of the city. This ornate Gothic gem was built in the 13th century. it is as beautiful as it is imposing. Its stained glass windows, especially those that have been restored to their original shimmer, steal the show. The fact that they almost didn’t survive World War II (at least in France) makes them all the more wondrous.
The cathedral also has another claim to fame–an incredibly elaborate, highly complex and very accurate astronomical clock that was built in the 16th century. The clock tracks days, months, years, and astrological periods, as well as minutes and hours. It marks hours and half hours with Christ blessing each of the disciples, babies turning sand dials, roosters crowing, and so forth. It has become a tourist attraction in itself. With hundreds of people paying and waiting in long lines to see a short movie and watch the mechanical noting of the passage of time.
Exploring Alsatian History and Culture
We were anxious to learn more about Alsace and its history. So we took time to visit the very interesting Musee Alsatian. It demonstrates and shows the design, layout, furniture, and heating systems of Alsatian homes;, the lives, customs, and religions of the people; and the roles of farming, winemaking, and cheese making in the region’s economy.
Regrets of Time
Although we thought a day in Strasbourg would be sufficient, we were wrong. We really hoped to go to the city’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which is supposed to have nice examples of art from artists including Kandinsky, Arp, and Brauner. We would have also liked to take a canal cruise and get out of the town center to visit the European Parliament. But after exploring, eating, and drinking in the city’s beautiful, historic Grande Île (Grand Island) section, we simply ran out of time.
Strasbourg Food, Wine and Lodging
After four days on a cruise, we had fallen behind on our email and our work. We planned to make up for it in Strasbourg by doing lunch as our major meal. We planned to pick up cheese, bread, and wine for a working dinner at our hotel. Things didn’t work quite according to plan.
Chez Yvonne. After consulting with our hotel concierge, checking the restaurant’s ambiance and reviewing the menu, we chose this archetypical Alsatian restaurant for lunch. We had two appetizers (escargot in herbed garlic butter and goose foie gras on toast) and two entrees (seared duck foie gras in a Sweet Reisling beef broth sauce and sautéed cep mushroom with crayfish and coriander in a cream sauce). While both appetizers were delicious, we were a bit disappointed in the entrees. The seared foie gras was overdone and the mushroom sauce wasn’t as tasty as we had hoped. Our plan was to explore as many local wines as possible, by ordering four different varietals (Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Blanc) by the glass, pairing each with a different dish. Unfortunately, none of the wines were really to our taste.
An Alsatian Foie Gras, Cheese, and Wine Dinner. We shopped and tasted our selections for our in-room dinner carefully. We selected our favorite cheese (Epoisse) and a local Aged Gruyere recommended by our friendly cheese monger, picked up a baguette, and then paired the cheeses with two wines that we tasted at a wine store (an Alsatian Wolfberger Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris). And since we had had “only” had two servings of foie gras for lunch (not to speak of one for the previous night’s dinner), we felt that we needed more. So we bought a can of Du Ried duck foie gras and cocooned for the evening. Although we didn’t manage to complete as much work as we had hoped, our do-it-ourselves dinner was wonderful
Our hotel was a bit of a splurge, but one that was well worthwhile.
Hotel Cour du Corbeau is a beautiful luxury hotel that is a 3 minute walk to the Old Town area. The building is a historic monument that, for five centuries, was an old inn. While the building was renovated on 2009, it has a small medieval alley that provides a connection to the hotel’s roots.
We really enjoyed the room which, after a walk down a short, dark hallway contained a side room with a toilet, next to a very modern bathroom, and finally opened up to our bright and spacious bedroom that included a small table. We had plenty of closet space (with numerous small closets tucked along the hallway as well as in our bedroom), bathrobes, coffee/tea service in the room, safe and flat-screen TV. It was all very comfortable and combined modern amenities with the wonderful character of an old building. Our only issue with the room was with its layout, in which the door to the shower/sink room blocked the door to the room with the toilet when it was open.
Although we really enjoyed the room, we had one big problem during our stay. Although WiFi access is one of our most important criteria for selecting a hotel room, we didn’t count on the hotel’s wireless network being down and its service provider not having a replacement modem required to repair it. So instead of working comfortably from our room (with our wine, cheese, and foie gras), we had to spend two hours at Mcdonald’s (the only free WiFi network in the area) before returning to our hotel. Not our preferred way of spending an evening, but at least we got caught up.
The next morning, we were off for a tour of the Alsatian Wine Road.