Last weekend Chris and I took the (what was supposed to be) hour and forty-five minute drive to Strasbourg, France, but the Autobahn was one big stau (traffic jam). I think it ended up taking three hours just to get to the French border, but it was worth it. France is such a beautiful country. The first thing we saw were rows of picturesque cottages in many colors, but they all seemed to coordinate with each other.
It's really odd when traveling within the European Union, we thought we would get passport stamps with every country we'd go to, but there is no checkpoint of any sort at the country borders. We've been to three countries and still don't have a single stamp from this journey in our passports!
France, like every other European country has very narrow city streets. Sometimes I wish we would have gotten a Smart car instead of our BMW. The BMW is shorter than my Dodge Stratus back home, but sometimes it feels like we are driving around in a Suburban!
When we finally found our hotel for the night, we had to park in an eight floor parking ramp. Each floor had only enough space for six or seven cars, and there was only one lane to use for cars leaving and entering the parking ramp; it was madness. I held my breath the whole time.
The hotel's website made the rooms look really chic and modern... not exactly the case when we actually arrived. The room was tiny, had two twin beds, a 13 inch television mounted in the corner of the room like a hospital waiting room, and bathroom/shower that was the size of my closet back home. It was GREAT! Chris and I couldn't stop laughing for about a half hour! I was actually happy it wasn't a perfect room, it was more fun this way!
Since we got to Strasbourg on Armistice Day, pretty much everything was closed. There were a few department stores open and dining places, so we wandered around a bit, bought roasted chestnuts (amazing by the way), and found a place to eat dinner. The waiter talked Chris into getting this stew that was something they were well known for and I got roast beef with potatoes (very French, I know, but it was recommended). We also order escargot as an appetizer. The escargot was delicious! Chris kept second guessing his choice of stew the entire time we were waiting for our meal, but when it finally came he realized it wasn't like stew back home. It was a huge bowl of meat and vegetables with a little broth. They cooked the stew with the bone in to add to the flavor. He couldn't finish it! My meal was great too, the beef was tender and had this amazing sauce drizzled all over it, I can't even begin to describe it.
Soon after our meal we went back to the hotel to get some rest. The next day we woke up fairly early and went downstairs for breakfast. It was so cute how the hotel had breakfast set up, there was a fresh squeezed orange juice (yes you read that right, fresh squeezed, no Tropicana here!), baguette and croissant at every setting. The French know how to do breakfast, it was so delicious.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city. There was a huge flea market going on, so we checked that out and got a little Christmas shopping out of the way. Strasbourg is such a pretty place, and the people there were very warm and welcoming. I took only one year of French in college, but I was surprised at how much I could remember. Most people there spoke French and German, but we got along just fine with our French phrase book. When people realized we weren't fluent in French, they would try to communicate in any English they knew, while we would try in the little French we knew, and the combo worked.
Strasbourg Cathedral is a beautiful piece of architectural art. You could stare at the intricate exterior for hours and still find something new. Majestic is the only word I can think of to describe it. I got chills every time we would walk by it or hear the bells in distance.
Since we are only about two hours (if we leave at the right time of day to avoid the staus!) we will definitely be returning to Strasbourg. It's a nice little vacation at the end of a long week! It would also be a great place to take any visitors (hint hint)!