Okay, so I guess this week was not really a Paris Adventure.
The idea of the series, though, was for me to get to know more about France and French culture in general. Plus, the trip happened while I was living in Paris, so it counts… kind of.
Last weekend 2 of my friends and I took advantage of our long weekend and went on a trip to Strasbourg.
(just fyi: Strasbourg is roughly 500km/310mi away from Paris, about a 5 hour drive. I’m so glad that I don’t have a driver’s licence!)
After spending the morning packing, reading, practicing some Spanish and spending some time at the bar with my Valentine, I met up with my friend Michel to pick up the car.
We got our car at about 5PM, and as we left Gare Montparnasse we got an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from Boulevard Pasteur.
From there, we went to Carol’s (the third member of our trip) place for a quick dinner: beef bourguignon that she had made in practical earlier that day. It tasted amazing, but I didn’t get any pictures of it. It looked something like the most recent LCB post though.
With our bellies full, we were off!
The drive there was pretty uneventful, although we did have a pretty nice car for the price that we paid: 135 euros for a brand new Volkswagen Golf (it had 12 km on it) for three days with unlimited mileage. None of us slept on the whole ride there, and although we couldn’t really see much since it was dark, we had a lot of fun playing around with all of the functions on the car. 5 short (thanks to our Bruno Mars karaoke) hours later, we arrived in Strasbourg! From there we just checked in, had a quick dinner at a Japanese restaurant (the only thing open at that hour), and then went to bed.
The hotel was an Ibis Budget right next to the strain station, so the room is not really photo-worthy. Probably the most memorable thing was how annoyingly difficult it was to keep the shower head on the stand.
Saturday February 15th
We woke up at 9:30, had a very un-spectacular hotel breakfast, and then, all of us being health freaks, walked to one of the oldest gyms in Paris – Espace Gym – and had a séance découverte there. The gym was pretty nice but a bit old. I may have gotten told off for dropping the weights.
We all appreciated the differences between Strasbourg and Paris. The German influences are very evident in Strasbourgeois architecture.
After the workout it was pouring. We ran back to the hotel, showered, and went to have lunch at a Brasserie called Le Michel. I had a tomato and mozzarella salad (wasn’t feeling hungry) that was really good, Carol had an “Assiette Michel,” which was vegetables with tuna and charcuterie, and Michel got Bouchée à la Reine – a puff pastry with salmon inside. It was pretty good, but we were really just satisfying our hunger while holding out for the main meal – dinner at Maison Kammerzell.
After lunch we went to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral in Strasbourg, which I personally think is more impressive than the one in Paris. But before that, of course we went and visited the wrong cathedral.
And we also took a photo with it.
When we finally figured out that we weren’t in the right place (“there’s no way that the Notre Dame, one of the biggest attractions in this city, is closed”), we rushed over, parked our car, and headed towards the massive, brick-colored cathedral.
Right opposite of this side of the cathedral, though, there was a Palace, Palais Rohan, so we decided to go ahead and visit that first since it was pouring.
We visited the most popular of their museums, le Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts), and although almost nothing in the museum had labels on them, I’m guessing from the style of art (very detailed and clear, dark colors) that it was from the late 17th-early 19th century. The whole interior of the palace was intricately decorated, although weirdly all of the beds were really short.
It’s a pity that almost nothing in the museum was labeled, so I can’t look up the history of the artist/inspiration. But basically, the Palace was built in Baroque style (1590-1725), and was home to a lot of royalty, like the (duh) Rohan family. Now it’s home to three different museums (the most popular of which was the one we visited, decorative arts.
At the back of the museum there were actually several labeled works, mostly by the Hannong brothers (which sounds Asian but is German), who were in charge of the Frankenthal Porcelain factory at the time.
There was also some nicely embossed silverware (actually made of silver).
No idea who made this, but you can tell it’s handmade because it’s not perfect.
I also found some fancy fancy diaries with silver and gold covers and even some gold leaf on the pages. They all had actual locks on them, which I didn’t know was a real thing.
After the museum, we visited a nice little sweets shop in that area – La Petite France – and although I didn’t get anything, Michel spent some money on cookies and chocolates.
We then finally went to take a look at the Notre Dame of Strasbourg, an example of high gothic architecture.
It looks more imposing than the one in Paris. (I think it’s bigger too). The inside was equally impressive
I didn’t really like this cathedral that much, though, because as grand as it was, it was really commercial. I mean, it’s kind of ridiculous that you have signs like these:
In a church. Just my two cents.
Leaving the church, we walked around the city (instead of driving), enjoying the city and the fact that the rain had finally stopped!
And then it was time for what we went to Strasbourg for: the food.
We made a reservation at Maison Kammerzell, a restaurant that came highly recommended by a friend whose husband used to live in Strasbourg. According to her, it was “the best choucroute (sauerkraut) that she had ever tasted,” and she loves everything and anything to do with food, so we trusted her judgement.
We got there, it was crowded and despite our reservation we had to wait, but it was well worth it. I took a menu, which meant I had a entrée, plat, and dessert. We also ordered white wine – a Riesling 2012, an Alsacian specialty – my first Grand Cru!
This was amazing, in particular the choucroute. Michel got choucroute avec jambonneau (pork knee), which was a very tender meat, and Carol got choucroute avec 3 poissons (3 fish), salmon, haddock (delicious), and some kind of white fish (cod? sole? turbot? hard to tell), and that was incredible as well.
By the time I got to dessert, I was too full to really enjoy it. Since I was the only one that got a menu, we just shared it between the three of us, and in small bites, it was quite enjoyable.
The wine, too was really good. I’m starting to know more about them since Michel is an amateur wine taster/enthusiast. Riesling has a very distinctive tingle in the aftertaste.
And after that thoroughly satisfying meal, we walked around Strasbourg, back to our hotel, and got ready for the next day – La Route des Vins and the long ride home!
Sunday February 16th
We slept in a little bit, waking up at 10:15 and rushing down to get breakfast (which ends at 10:30). We chilled in our room, took showers, packed our stuff, and were out the door at 12. We first went to the Tourism office to see how to get onto La Route des Vins and if the castle Haut-Koenigsbourg was on the way.
It was, and with that we were off!
We headed in the direction of Sélestat to get to Haut-Koenigsbourg, and pretty soon we were driving through a little town that did not look French at all.
And then we started driving up the mountain (it was a pretty long drive), and I was taken aback by how beautiful the mountain was, even in the wintertime.
And finally, we reached the top!
We didn’t end up visiting the inside of the castle – we were getting really hungry – so we got back on the car and ate some junk food (chips, saucissons, and chocolate!)
We visited one winery only: Koehly, where we tasted (our driver tasted and spat) a couple of different wines (Pinot gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and one more that I forgot the name of). I got a bottle of Riesling and of Gerwurztraminer – maybe I’ll drink it with my mum when she gets here! Gerwurztraminer is normally served as an apéritif because it tastes intensely sweet and doesn’t have much of an aftertaste, and Riesling is best with fish or white meats.
Then it was back onto the road! We didn’t visit any more wineries although there were literally dozens of them just along the road as well as very impressive fields upon fields of grape farming lands.
I also learned something about wines! The Alsace region is best-known for its white wines (of which Riesling is the most famous), but they also produce really good sparkling wines– think, Champagne-Ardenne, the only place that makes sparkling wine that happens to be called Champagne – which is made by adding precise amounts of sugar and letting the bacteria feed off the sugar to create gas. The things you learn in France.
We drove to Colmar, but since it was a Sunday, nothing was open. We ended up eating at a pretty nasty place where everything was deep-fried. My friends got deep-fried sausages in sandwiches. I got a burger, which (thankfully) wasn’t deep-fried but simply fried on a hot plate.
After lunch, it was about time to take the long ride back to Paris. It was pretty uneventful, as all the excitement was dying down, but we did get to see some gorgeous landscapes and a stunning sunset.
5 hours later – during which we refilled the tank, hit the 1000KM mark on the basically brand new car, slept a little, and sang alot – we were back in Paris!
Overall: Strasbourg was incredible, and I’m scared to eat any more choucroute because I know it won’t match up to what I ate there. As shame about the weather, which was pretty crummy (did I just say crummy?), but other than that everything else was on point. Got to see a very different part of France/part of Germany, got to eat some very good food, got to see new things, and got to learn more about French culture and its wine. I want to visit more parts of France now!
P.S. Sorry for the huge delay in posting this! There was just so much stuff to talk about and this week was kind of hectic. I have a 13-hour day at LCB tomorrow, so I’m signing out. \/ peace.