Monday, April 1, 2013

Cycling, Stupid Things and an Under Belly

We considered making a change, and skipping Strasbourg all together.  We were really enjoying Prague, we felt that there was much more that we could see and do, and we knew that it was a long, long train journey to get to Strasbourg.  

The one thing negative about this trip, is that it is quite spread out geographically.  The intent was to see 5-6 cities, and to compare how different they are, or in some instances how similar they might be.  Prague has been a destination on "the list" for a long time, and the desire to go there probably dictated the schedule more than anything, because it is not exactly "along the way".  

We opted to stick to our original schedule, and make the trek to Strasbourg (having said that, if we hadn't paid a deposit on the Strasbourg apartment, we probably would have stayed in Prague).

Our taxi showed up at the Prague apartment at 5:30 AM.....  Our first train was the 6:39 special from Prague to Dresden, Germany.  When we arrived in Dresden, I tried to make reservations on the next train to Frankfurt, only to find that it was completely booked!  Thankfully, the nice German Train lady was very helpful, and she helped us sort reservations for a slightly later train.  We eventually got into Strasbourg at 7:00 PM.  I told you it was a long travel day....

But you know what?  It was great.  We needed a down day, and the trains are great for that.  Our two snack backs were loaded, and we had plugins for our electronics.  All was good.

The apartment in Strasbourg is about a 10 minute walk from the station.  As we walked into town from the station, we were quite surprised how seedy the main drag was at 7:15 on a Friday night.  Once we got off that street, and into our hood "La Petite France", the quality of individuals improved dramatically.  Our apartment is in a great building dating back to 1700.  

For dinner on both Friday and Saturday night, we opted to go to a fantastic Indian restaurant that is about 12 feet from the entrance to our building.  Unlike every other city that we have been to on this trip, Strasbourg restaurants for the most part only post their menus in French (most other places post 2-3 languages including english).  It made it pretty difficult for us to determine if a restaurant was going to offer something that would make all of us happy.  

The main attraction in the city is the Grande Ile.  In 1988 the Grand Island was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Basically, it's a large oval shaped island with a canal around it.  It is a very picturesque city, with Medieval streets that feature Rhineland black and white timber frame buildings.  The town itself is right on the Germany - France border, so you can see the heavy Bavarian influence in the architecture, and cuisine.   

The star of the show in Strasbourg is the astonishing, Gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg.

The Ponts Couverts are three 13th Century towers that are ancient fortified remains.

The Frog is everywhere!
So, I read in a Guardian UK newspaper article that Strasbourg is Europe's most cycle friendly city.  With that in mind, we decided to rent bikes to explore the city.  What a pain in the ASS!  I am pretty sure the idiot that wrote that article has never tried to actually ride a bike in Strasbourg.  The streets are made of 4 million year old cobblestone, and they are PACKED with people.  We spent more time pushing our bikes, then we did riding them.  As luck would have it, the best 5-6 shops that we have seen all trip were ones that we saw while lugging our bikes down a crowded side street.  I was so close to abandoning them, and eating the 600 Euro deposit!

If nothing else, they were convenient for the ride to the train station where we attempted to make reservations for the train ride to Brugge.  Which they attendant wasn't able to help us with...  Stupid bikes.

While we waited for the Cathedral to open, I was trying to secure upgrades for the flight home from Paris.  We hit the local Subway because they had free WIFI.  The WIFI and drinks were great, but the Air Canada website was causing me problems.  Stupid website.   Well, it was stupid until it confirmed the upgrade request.  Smart website.
Pod Boy is happy.  I think there is a gargoyle from the cathedral under that hat...
Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg.
Amazing details around the main entrance.

It looks like a big melted wax candle.

We climbed up the 330 stairs to get the view of the city.

Yet another chilly, hazy day.

It took us about 20 minutes to lock up our stupid bikes in this plaza.  Stupid locks.
This guy ripped us off.  Most expensive cheese I will ever buy.  Stupid cheese guy.
The reaction says it all.

On Sunday we took it easy.  We spent a good chunk of the day in the apartment, then later in the afternoon we went out for a stroll.
Very Bavarian influenced architecture.
We loved the various colours, shapes and sizes of the buildings.

The three towers.  

We all agreed that this tree would be fabulous tree for a tree house.

On the right is a tour boat.  The canal on the opposite side of that bridge is significantly lower than the water on this side of the bridge.  The boat pulls into a dock, the dock fills up to the height of the canal on this side of the bridge, and the nboat continues on its journey.  Funky.

Grumpy boy wasn't happy about leaving the apartment, and his beloved iPad....

This is a zoomed in picture of a three foot X three foot, 3 dimensional chocolate scene.  Absolutely amazing.

So that's it for Strasbourg.  Overall, it's a very picturesque village with a lot of interesting architecture.  The cathedral is stunning, and for 227 years it was able to claim the title of "the worlds tallest building". I can't imagine what newcomers to the town thought, way back when, as they were approaching the town and the massive building.

But even that charm and sense of wonder doesn't make this a city that I would come back to.  It's far too busy (this was Easter weekend, and it was savage, I can't imagine what the heart of tourist season would be like).  After you have walked the majority of the historical area, you've kinda done it all. The city take on a different feel after the shops have closed, it's then that the main shopping streets have a real seedy underbelly to them.  We all know when our Spidey senses start tingling, telling you somethings not right, Strasbourg has that feeling at night when you are not in the touristy historical parts.

I think it's a great spot for a half day visit while you are on your way to visit the rest of the Alsace region.

Next stop: Brugge, Belgium.

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