Published: August 10th 2012August 10th 2012
The morning of our departure from Paris was fairly frantic. We had arranged to meet our apartment hosts' representative at 9 am to exchange keys...our train for Strasbourg left at 11:30 from Gare de l'est...we knew that we could take the Metro there but not really sure about how long it would take...and cleaning/packing just seems to never end. She showed up at 9:15 and wanted to be able to leave right away because she had an appointment at 9:30...!?! Okedoke, we gave her the keys, thumped gigantor suitcase down the stairway and hung out in our favorite coffee shop for the next half hour, drinking awesome cafe au lait and filling Fifi up on CROGGHERS. We made our way to the gare with ease and found ourselves, of course, with plenty of time to spare. We had gotten a pretty good deal on the train tickets by having to print them out ourselves the day before (which entailed me trekking to an Internet cafe with a printer, dealing with a very unhelpful and disinterested clerk, enjoying Fifi's major screaming meltdown in the Ergo in my lap as I sat at a computer in a tiny quiet cafe because I wouldn't
let her play with the change, which in turn prompted me to take her immediately to the Luxembourg Gardens again afterwards instead of to the Rodin museum as my nerves were a WEE bit shattered). Anyway, we boarded, got situated with sandwiches and fizzy water and were ready for the 3ish hour trip to Strasbourg. We were stuck in those seats where you face the other two seats - I never like those - but a very nice, tres chich French lady was across from us. She smiled and clucked at Fifi, encouraged us to record her saying "Uh-oh!", and helped us to gather crayons as they rolled off the table during the trip. Eventually, Fifi fell asleep (and Hank, and the French lady) and I was able to enjoy the lovely rolling green countryside as it unfolded before my eyes. As we neared Strasbourg, Fifi woke up and was ready for a sip of JOOSH (which is really a little bit of apple juice diluted by a lot of water). And then....one of the most embarassing and hysteria-provoking incidents of travel I have ever encountered occurred. One of Fifi's sippy cups has the little straw that you can close
down by sliding a lid over it, preventing spillage. It just kind of bends the plastic straw down when you close it. Over time, I have observed, the pressure inside the sup changes with temperature/altitude/etc. As I went to open the sippy by sliding open the valve....a GIANT stream of juice ejected from the straw, arcing across the tables....DIRECTLY onto sleeping French woman's face....!!!!!!! MERDE! At first, she just kind of sleepily batted at her face, like maybe a fly had landed on her. But then, she must have realized that she suddenly had warm apple juice on her face and chest. She shook herself awake and I can only imagine the look she must have seen on my face. I was absolutely agog and astonished and on the edge of laughing like banshee. I apologized in English and French and tried to demonstrate how it happened. She stared at me for a minute, brushed herself off, smiled....and went back to sleep. What a lady.
The rest of the trip to Strasbourg unfolded without international incident. We exited the train and the station and emerged into HEAT. Hank went to try to figure out the tram system to get
us to our hotel. I headed for the bathroom, with Fifi firmly ensconced in the Ergo, and got yelled at because I tried to enter the WC without paying the .50 Euro fee. Sheesh. We decided to take a taxi to the hotel, as we were supposed to take Tram C, and there was not a single sign for Tram C, and we were tired and it was hot. As it turns out, it was a short and cheap ride to our new place, the Regent Contades Hotel. We pulled up to the refurbished mansion and realized...it had AIR CONDITIONING. Nothing could have been more exciting at that moment. What made it even better was that Hank got the hotel using his airline miles. Hell yes. The woman at the reception desk immediately noted that the room they had us assigned to was too small to include THE BABY, so she switched us to a room with slightly more living space. We cranked up the air and relaxed for a bit.
Hank needed to work for a bit, so Fifi and I ventured forth in search of a local cafe with good food. We found one right around the
corner, Cafe Michel, where we ended up returning three times by ourselves and once with Hank over the next 5 days. It is a pretty unassuming, typical little cafe, with the added pleasure of a GREAT waiter who spoke English very well, walked with a spring in his step, and was funny and accomodating to the needs of toddlerhood. That day, Fifi got spaghetti bolognese (which was delicious, by the way) and a dessert of yummy fresh strawberry ice cream with a totally bizarre yellow marshmallow on top. After this late lunch, we went back and dragged Hank away from work and headed out into the heart of Strasbourg. We really had no idea what to expect from this town, other than facts gleaned from Wikipedia and travel blogs. It is situated right on the German border so has long been either a French or a German city. The German influence is very strong, with lots of good beer and Alsatian cuisine. Most of the servers in the restaurants easily switched between French, English, and German. There is a canal that circles the entire old town area, filled with barges reimagined as bars and restaurants, and the heart of old
town is complete with half-timbered buildings, winding alleys, plazas filled with cafes, all radiating out from the Notre Dame du Strasbourg. It is really an AMAZING cathedral. The stone work is intricate as lace, but dark and mottled and forbidding. Inside, there is a truly spectacular pillar of angels right next to an astronomical clock.
We decided to stop for an Alsatian beer before eating dinner. Not only was this a good idea on the sampling of good local beer front, but also because we were out to dinner on the early side - there is a very different time scale for cafes and restaurants in France. We found a beer pub, Les Berthom, with the atmosphere and beer menu we were looking for. We tried some great local beers and sat at a table next to a bunch of dudes who had brought their own cheese to the pub! After that, we headed for dinner at Restaurant Au Pigeon. We had walked by it earlier, and it had a traditional Alsatian menu with the additional bonus of looking cute and charming. I opted for the menu of the day - a GREAT salad with celeraic remoulade (yay!!), followed
by chicken in white wine sauce with spaetzle, and then dessert of a lovely creme brulee. Hnk was ecstatic - finally, escargot! He ordered the sauerkraut, and it was so delicious. The knack sausages were especially tasty. To use the WC here, Fifi and I were obliged to climb two stories on a very rickety, windy old wooden staircase and then cross over an open construction area in the ancient building, so it was a very adventurous meal all around.