Long Weekend in Strasbourg
With its old timber-framed houses, flower pots and canals, Strasbourg has a collection of picture postcard subjects.
First culture, then shopping. The cathedral, one of the most beautiful of its kind, bears witness to the importance of mediaeval Strasbourg.
Straight to the middle. This is our motto for every city we visit. In Strasbourg, the centre is undoubtedly the cathedral. Although more than a thousand years old, this mediaeval building towers over and shapes this city in Alsace. The 143m spire is the tallest surviving mediaeval structure in the world. Aside from its sheer size and beauty, the other main attraction here is the astronomical clock; a Renaissance masterpiece that attracts onlookers in droves.
For lunch we head to Maison Kammerzell. This pretty, historical half-timbered building is one of the most photographed buildings in Strasbourg; here we treat ourselves to choucroute (pickled cabbage) with fish to get in the local culinary mood. Then let's go shopping, after all we don't want to return home empty-handed. From Maison Lorho we enjoy Welsche, a soft, washed-rind cheese similar to Munster, except the rind is washed with Marc de Gewürztraminer. After a stroll along the Place Kléber, we stop at Edouard Artzner's foie gras, another must among Alsacian delicacies. After a short visit to the Place Broglie with its market, we head to La Luciole (the firefly) – this shop is a paradise for lamps and art objects made of glass from art nouveau to Tiffany. A feast for the eyes, even if, for once, we don't buy anything here. But we do at Jacques Bockel, a man acclaimed for his chocolate and renowned for his Nut d’Alsace spread (similar to the famous Piedmontese nut nougat cream). At Le Coin d'Alsace, a three-storey boutique specialising in textiles and ceramics, we buy a decorative tablecloth.
By now it is evening - so quickly into La Casserole near the cathedral. Over the years, a young brigade has been cooking here under its talented head chef, Cédric Kuster, and they have already won several awards. Sadly the Haeberlin brothers, undoubtedly the most famous Alsacian restaurateurs, recently lost their third Michelin star at nearby Illhäusern, much to the chagrin of their fan base. La Casserole, on the other hand, is on the rise and scores particularly well with blue lobster, celery mousseline and 'Américaine' emulsion.
Strasbourg is a shopper's paradise, especially for culinary delights like gingerbread, foie gras, cheese, macarons and Alsacian wines.
We wake up in the Hôtel Cour du Corbeau where we had checked in yesterday in something of a hurry. After breakfast, we immediately head for Petite France, the picturesque quarter that could also be called Little Venice because of all its canals. Here we admire the spectacular swing bridge, the Ponts Couverts (which are no longer covered) and the Vauban Dam or Great Lock built in 1690 from plans by the great military engineer Vauban. At Mireille Oster's we stock up on gingerbread. If she has her way, gingerbread making is quite simple: "It takes flour, honey, spices, butter and – love.” Afterwards we cannot deny ourselves lunch at La Maison des Tanneurs, although this beautiful timber-framed building is hugely favoured by tourists. For a light snack we order snails, Alsacian style.
Now just don't feign fatigue, because the shopping list is still long. At Macarons et Inspirations, we grab the Guanaja Chocolate and Spéculoos biscuits. Of course everything is super fresh, as it should be at La Maison Kirn, a high class butchers and charcuterie. On the Place Gutenberg, named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the mechanical movable-type printing press, our heads are full; we recharge our batteries at the Salon du Thé Christian and enjoy excellent madeleines with our tea. We are lucky to find a place as you cannot reserve a table here.
On the way back to the hotel we investigate the drinks scene: in the Village de la Bière, you can choose from hundreds of beers, many from micro and small breweries. And because wine is also an inseparable part of Alsace, we buy as many bottles as we can carry. In the evening we plan to surpass our experiences to date. The Buerehiesel is enchantingly situated in the Parc de l'Orangerie. This address was once triple-starred under Antoine Westermann; the fact that his junior, Eric, is only decorated with one star does not detract from the overall experience. For us it is the perfect end to a wonderful day.
The shops are closed, the metropolitan hustle and bustle has subsided. Sunday is ideal for walks and a boat trip.
On Sunday we take it a bit easier, we wake up significantly later than the day before. We take some time to admire the wonderful hotel which has accommodated us for two nights. Emperors and kings, generals and dukes have all stayed in this noble inn and the courtyard framed by half-timbered houses is quintessential Alsace. But for breakfast we would like to explore something new and to that end, we seek out Le Roi et son Fou. This Parisian brasserie-style eatery offers breakfast and brunch in several variations. Although there is not enough time for a museum or a concert, the so-called New Town, built between 1871-1918, offers more culture, imposing architecture and the walk around this Unesco World Heritage site makes room for a little more food.
As inveterate gastro-nomads we would like to take this last opportunity to taste great cuisine. So we install ourselves at 1741, where chef Fabien Raux serves us Miéral guinea fowl with truffles and Vin Jaune sauce. His gourmet temple is in the same league as yesterday's dinner. As if to sum up all the impressions, we end our stay in Strasbourg with a boat trip on the River Ill. This picturesque river virtually embraces Strasbourg. With full heads and full pockets we reluctantly return home where our impressions and purchases will see us through the coming week.
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