At the end of February, one of my pals and I took a weekend trip to Strasbourg, France. I have visited France three times since living in Germany, and I have to admit before moving to Europe, France was never a country high on my list of places to visit. While Paris wasn’t really my cup of tea (big cities usually aren’t), I was blown away by the French countryside, and the small town of Strasbourg was just what I hoped it would be and more.
My friend and I both have February birthdays (hers is the day after mine!) and we hadn’t traveled together since last April, so we requested to have one of our weekends fall on the same two days. We rented a car, and I drove us the 3.5 hrs west. Strasbourg is right on the border of Germany, so the houses have a heavy German influence.
I adore the German/Saxon style architecture, and perhaps this is why I loved this little town so much.
We drove to Strasbourg after work on our Friday, and arrived just in time to get a good nights rest. We found an Air B & B within 30 minutes walking distance, and right next to the tram. This was a nice balance of options, and we ended up walking into town, and decided to take the tram back in the evening. We woke early the following morning and headed towards the city for a day of exploration.
We started our day at a local boulangerie for coffee and breakfast, and as we sat inside eating we heard nothing but French as the locals hurried in for their baguettes and espresso. Of all the countries I have visited, France was the one I felt most nervous asking if they speak English. I’ve heard that the French don’t like American’s, but as I said before I have been three times now and never once did I feel like a bother.
Even in Paris! Crushing stereotypes when traveling is one of my favorite things to do.
After savoring the local hustle and bustle of the boulangerie, we set off to wander the town by foot. We wandered inside the Strasbourg Cathedral, and then headed towards La Petite France, an adorable part of town on the canal. The morning weather was cool with an overcast, but by the early afternoon the clouds broke and the sun came out in full force.
La Petite France felt like a village straight out of Beauty and the Beast, and I expected a portly baker to come around the corner offering baguettes to passerby’s.
After gawking at the adorable German style houses again, we wandered towards Parc de l’Orangerie. This is Strasbourg’s oldest park, with 24 hectares full of paths for jogging, walking, or bird watching. Yes bird watching. I thought I walked into an Alfred Hitchcock movie when I saw nest, after nest, after nest of stork homes.
This was literally one of the most bizarre things I have ever seen, and as we kept walking through the park we eventually stumbled upon a small farm/zoo. This was even more bizarre. Part of the small farm is dedicated to the stork rehabilitation. The stork, threatened by extinction, was successfully reintroduced to the region’s natural environment.
The rest of the zoo held random animals from all over the world. I couldn’t understand the signs, as they were all in French, but I believe these animals were endangered and the zoo was meant to be beneficial to the species. This is what I told myself at least, I don’t like the idea of a zoo unless there is no other option for the animals.
After this bizarre experience, we headed back towards the city center for a cup of coffee and a moment of rest.
We sat outside a cafe in front of the cathedral listening to street performers and watching the tourists and locals pass by. I find myself finally slowing down more when I travel, and this has helped me to appreciate the places I visit. People watching and sitting amongst the locals is one of my favorite things to do in a new to me city.
After coffee and people watching my pal and I split off for a few hours of solo exploration. I love traveling with people who also enjoy spending time alone, it makes for the perfect balance of social time and alone time. I spent my time weaving in and out of streets I hadn’t seen, and ended my time climbing to the top of the cathedral.
The tower climb is 330 steps high, and has views all the way to the Black Forest in Germany.
Despite the fact that I ate a small pizza and a pastry for breakfast (aka gluten and dairy city) I was on a roll of indulging in all the foods I’m allergic to and just kept the party train going for dinner. Strasbourg is in a region of France called Alsace, and this region is famous for something called Flammkuchen.
Flammkuchen is a thinly rolled dough in an oval or rectangular shape similar to a flatbread, and is topped with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, thin-sliced onions and lardons. The toppings can vary slightly, but I kept mine mostly traditional with the addition of sauerkraut because…health.
Although I ate the entire thing, this isn’t something I would order again. The crème fraîche had an odd bite and the combo of flavors wasn’t something I preferred. I’m glad I tried it though, and we went to a local college hangout for dinner with a happy hour on Flammkuchen (and beer) so I only paid 5 euros for this.
After dinner we made our way back to the Air B & B, walking along the canal towards the tram. We spent about 8-9 hours slowly wandering around Strasbourg which was the perfect amount of time. These close by towns make for a perfect weekend getaway.
Q: What’s a stereotype about another culture you crushed after experiencing the culture firsthand?