Friday, November 16, 2012

Oct 16 - Strasbourg France

This morning we cross into France and may choose to join an optional tour of the fascinating Alsatian capital of Strasbourg. Or there is an optional excursion which takes you on a tour of the scenic Alsace wine region, complete with the chance to taste some of the region's excellent wines.

Originally we were supposed to spend the day in Strasbourg, which we were really looking forward to. That way you could do the city tour in the morning and then the wine tour in the afternoon. However, according to the tour director the locks going towards Basel were under repair so they had to arrange both tours for the morning with departure for Basel at 1PM. This was very disappointing as we had looked forward to stopping and dining in town.

Strasbourg, in eastern France, is the seventh largest city in France. Strasbourg has a rich architectural history - the entire city center of Strasbourg is classified as world heritage. Strasbourg makes a fine center for exploration of the Alsace region of France.
Strasbourg is the ultimate European city. It has flavors of both France and Germany, and sits right on the border of the two countries. 

We began our tour of the city around the home of the European Parliament and the seat of the Council of Europe, something I was not aware of.
We finally had a bright sunny day a little on the cool side.

We did a quick tour of the town and then we were dropped off and taken on a walking trip into the old pedestrian part of town.

The Kammerzell House is a magnificent 15th and 16th century Renaissance house which has the most richly decorated half-timbered panels in the city. Built by cheesemonger Martin Braun, its medieval ground floor is made of stone and its upper floors, of Renaissance style, are made of sculpted wood. Its façade features 65 bottle-bottom windows, whose sculpted frames depict both biblical and mythological scenes.

The corner post sculpted in wood represents the three virtues: on the first floor, Charity (surrounded by two children and a pelican), and on the second and third floors Hope (a phoenix) and Faith (a griffin).

This often-overlooked and surprisingly cosmopolitan destination hosts France's oldest Christmas market and features a stunning cathedral. In fact, Strasbourg has often changed hands between the French and Germans over the centuries.

Germany or France?
It can be hard to discern which country you are truly in while visiting. The signs are in both languages. Beer and wine are both tremendously popular. It's common to find dishes like sauerkraut, but spelled in French ("choucroute").

The architecture is distinctly German, yet the Ill River winds a Venice-like path through the city, and plays host to many cruise tours of the city.

Strasbourg is so huge, one could spend days exploring it. There are certain attractions here you don't dare miss, however, such as:
Strasbourg Cathedral is one of Europe's most beautiful example of gothic architecture. The stunning pink sandstone facade is quite unique and breathtaking. Be sure to wander inside, where intricate carvings captivate. Each day at 12:30 p.m., visitors can see the circa-1800s astrological clock with its lengthy show. 

Check out the shoes I bought in Heidelberg!

The cathedral is also a hub of activity, with shops and restaurants nearby. The courtyard out front hosts the city's immensely popular Christmas market.

Our city tour included a canal ride. The boats are enclosed which is a good thing on a cool day but leads to terrible photos due to the reflection.

La Petite France is easily Strasbourg's prettiest and most enchanting neighborhood, and arguably one of the best neighborhoods in all of France. Stroll along its streets, along bridges over the Ill River. Breathe in the scent of fresh-baked gingerbread or the inviting aromas from the restaurants. Gaze at the timbered buildings, bursting with blooming plants that earned this city the prestigious four-flower ranking.

Back on board and we have lunch as we set sail for Basel. Later in the day we were given our instructions for disembarkation tomorrow in Basel. We will be staying for a couple of nights there.

The Captain's Farewell Dinner was held tonight with the requisite Baked Alaska that every cruise line seems to serve on the last night.

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