After spending consecutive weekends exploring the markets and rooftops of Madrid and discovering Gaudi's timeless works Barcelona, we decided to keep it closer to home for a short weekend trip to Strasbourg, France. We headed out early on a frosty Saturday morning and drove south, cutting through Germany on our way down to the Alsace region.
We started our trip with a hike around the snowy and spooky grounds of the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, a medieval castle in the Vosges mountains overlooking the Rhine River. The massive structure doesn't have a date of building, but it was recognized in land deeds in the 1100s and it was used throughout the middle ages by those in power, up until the period of the Thirty Years War. We spent our morning exploring the various castle rooms, filled with giant fireplaces painted with family crests. We took our time in the armoury which housed medieval spears and swords. We walked along the ramparts - crossing drawbridges - and took in the views to the Rhine Valley below.
After getting our fill of the castle, we stopped at a local winery to taste some wines from France's third most important wine region (famous for Rieslings and Gewürztraminer varietals). Dave was more interested in bonding with the winery's dog than the tour until the guide showed us how they squeeze inside the massive barrels to clean them. We balanced out the alcohol with a trip to a gingerbread shoppe, which felt like we stepped into a festive, traditional German sweets village. After exploring the rolling vineyards, we drove into Strasbourg for some Syrian fare. Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament, and is known for its traditional wood beam structures and its mix of French and German cultures.
We decided to stay in one of the classic Strasbourg homes, and booked a room at Du côté de chez Anne, a local B&B. We checked in and were greeted with champagne and sweets, which, combined with the chilly weather, and wine and lunch from earlier in the day, knocked us out for a long nap. We awoke to the stirrings of a French dinner party downstairs, complete with drippy candles and odd 80s American music. Since we missed the dinner window, we snacked on the rice cakes we brought for the road trip and spent the evening in, watching the sunset through our cottage windows.
The biggest perk of our accommodation, apart from the cloud-like shag carpets and luxurious bathroom in our room, was the insanely decadent breakfast Anne prepared. We walked down to the rustic, chic dining room and were greeted to a personal breakfast spread that looked like it belonged in a movie. We had baskets of warm, fresh bread, rolls and pastries, soft boiled eggs, tea, fresh juices, smoked salmon, fresh butter, homemade jam, a cheese plate with varieties of soft and hard cheeses and a fruit plate. We started by taking a picture of the gourmet dream breakfast, and sat down for a feast, made all the better by our lack of dinner the previous evening.
We eventually tapped out, filled to the brim with French brunch goodness, and ventured out to the streets of Strasbourg. We wandered for a couple of hours, checking on the traditional architecture and one of the most beautiful churches we've ever seen.
The Gothic Strasbourg Cathedral - with its single spire - was the tallest building in the world for more than 200 years, from 1647 to 1874. The details in the facade are strikingly delicate and the sandstone facade gives the structure a pinkish hue. On clear days, the cathedral is visible from as far off as the Vosges Mountains in France and the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine in Germany. We spent time taking in the view from the outside, and made it inside just in time to hear the Sunday service choir singing beautifully but also eerily in the cavernous structure. We stayed to watch the sun rays illuminate the stained glass windows and to listen to the service, which sounded poetic in French.
We spent a bit more time exploring the streets, until the chilly weather got to us. We hopped back in the car and were back in Lux by early afternoon. The biggest perk about living in Central Europe is how close we are to such varied landscapes, architecture and cultures. In just a few hours, we can be in drastically different places, from Paris to the Alps, so it is hard to just stay home with so many amazing sites nearby. Next up, coastal drives, beaches, spas and wineries in Northern Portugal.
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