We are in Strasbourg only a short time. Our ship arrives at 8AM and will leave at 6:30PM so there was little time for exploring on our own. We opted for the Optional Tour called Taste the Best of Alsace which was to take 7 hours! Maybe that's why only four couples decided to take this outing.
Dorian, our leader, met us at the front desk and escorted us to two cars which would take us into the old part of the city which is an island in the Ill River which runs into the Rhine.
The Tialfi is docked on the Rhine which is on the extreme right on the map. The part of the city we will be experiencing is in the middle left on the map. Here is another map of the old city.
The walking part of the tour started on the left in this map where you see three towers and the legend Petite France. This is a beautiful area of canals, cobblestone streets, flower baskets, restaurants and shops. Canal tour boats ply the waters here. There are lots of people sight seeing. Many languages are heard being spoken.
Dorian gives us some history of the area pointing out a special school where leaders of France are educated, including the current French President. The interesting thing is that you must be from a certain few families to be allowed to enroll here. Hmmm. Pretty exclusive territory.
Dorian explains that these canal houses can be taken apart and moved a bit like the IKEA idea of home furnishings.
This canal area is pedestrian only, except for bicycles. We enjoyed being a small group and not having to wear our hearing devices.
Our little group follows the leader through narrow streets with shops below and apartments above, past this square with its quaint small carousel and into the rue des Dentelles. Here is the Spice shop of Mirelle Oster called Pain D'Epices. She concocts little bites of heaven using spices from all over the world. Her clerks offer us a bite of gingerbread apiece. We are asked if we can identify the seven spices that are used in making this tasty treat. We are able to name most of them but fail to guess pepper.
Dave in front of the spice shop. I bought some gingerbread here and it made the trip home in good shape. This shop is a favorite during the Christmas Market time of the year.
Next shop we visit is a bakery with wonderful smells and sights. Dorian explains how Kougelhopf is made. It is a kingly treat and looks like a crown. We all get a slice!
He also explains the decorations made of bread that we see hanging in the shop.
The bread decorations are made for Christmas. He had a story about the gingerbread man. Dorian collects baguettes here that we will eat with our picnic later.
Next up is Au Bon Vivant, a traditional restaurant where the chef prepared several tarte flambés for us. But first we were served snails with crusty bread and, of course, wine.
Hot and garlicky. The bread sopped the garlic butter left in this special snail baking pan.
Our waitress is pouring brandy on the cheese and apple tarte and proceeds to set it aflame.
Next stop was the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg. What an amazing sight to turn a corner, climb a few stairs and there it is. Spectacular!
Construction started in 1015 and was finished in 1439. It was once the tallest cathedral in the world, now the sixth tallest. The architecture started out as Romanesque and finished as Gothic. Inside are stained glass windows, life size sculptures, crypts of former bishops, a suspended pipe organ plus two other organs (one for the Choir and another in the crypt), busts of the Apostles, ornate tapestries and carved alters in the adjoining side chapels.
The provenance of this little dog is unclear. Maybe it belonged to the stone carver or maybe the bishop but it is popular with visitors. It is part of the ornately carved pulpit. Dorian told us that stone masons were revered and given some latitude in their carving. They often carved the likenesses of themselves or their family and sometimes included not so reverent subjects on their frescoes.
Another feature of this cathedral is the Astronomical clock, one of the largest in the world. It was constructed between 1838 and 1843 and has been renovated since. The clock sits in a side chapel beside an ornately carved pillar that one architect predicted would never hold the weight above it. He was wrong as the column was cleverly carved to distribute weight. You can see a sculpture of the nay-saying architect in the above photo. He is highlighted in the middle left beside the pillar, leaning on a balcony. The clock is said to be unusually accurate and computes leap years, equinoxes and the changing date of Easter. Another feature of the clock that we didn't get to see is the animated characters that move at different hours. The cathedral was packed with tourists and we could have spent the entire seven hours here but there were more delicacies to be tasted so off we went.
La Cloche a Fromage, our next stop was a "stinky" cheese shop. As you can see, cheeses from all over France were sold here by this very knowledgeable lady. Hard, semi-hard, semi-soft and soft cheeses made in local dairies in all regions of France of unpasteurized cows milk or goat milk. This shops specialty was Munster cheese made from cow's milk in eastern France. It is soft and has an edible rind and has a very strong flavor and odor. It is definitely not the Munster cheese you buy at Fry's Grocery in Surprise Arizona! We tried several samples of various cheeses and Dorian collected a bag of goodies that we would enjoy later. On we go through the picturesque streets.
I think Dorian was telling us about this section of the old city wall which has been removed in most places. Many European cities had walls which were deconstructed, the stones used elsewhere. The wine cask in the above photo was probably filled and used in local celebrations.
Our final destination and picnic site was Winstub Le Pfifferbriader. We got inside just as the rain came pouring down. We were safe and warm inside and feasting on good bread, cheese and slices of cured meat accompanied by flights of French wine. Bon Appetite!
This was a fun day and a fun way to see a small portion of the city in a short time. Dorian hustled us back to the cars and back to the ship. After a full day, we didn't participate in the evening Pop/Rock Music and Dance Quiz with hits from the 60's 70's and 80's. You can see the age of the audience the program director is targeting.