It seems everyone is captivated by Paris, but I’d fancy a more romantic notion of Strasbourg as a miniature model of France, even though the actual Petite France occupies merely a corner of the old city.
Sitting at the German border and several miles west of the Rhine, metropolitan Strasbourg hums with activity always, combining the whimsical nature of the French and the precision timing of Germany – even the trams glide smoothly on every couple of minutes! Accommodation is near impossible to get when the European Parliament is in session, but even all the more so when an influx of European tourists (many predictably hail from the right side of the border) descend on the alarming clusters of Christmas stands.
We started the day as late as we could – a hard-won luxury so we rationalised after the gruelling week – and wandered into the Old Town after breakfast with no fixed itinerary but to seize the only day that we had in this place. Strong afternoon sunlight burned through the early morning fog, and it made me happy for no other reason than the pictures would turn out nicer.
In the end, we trawled through routes and tram stations multiple times, walked along the river to Petite France (a popular corner of river is divided into a number of canals, and rushes through a small area of half-timbered houses), ate unhealthy food, marvelled at the grand Notre Dame de Strasbourg, took lots of pictures in the wrong places, and embarrassed ourselves mightily at high-end stores. It’s probably what we’ll be doing for the rest of the trip in French-speaking regions and we did did until the sun went down and the partying began.
Strasbourg’s streets serve up quite the potent mix of the old and new, but only after sunset did the illumination of the Christmas lights and decorations bathe the paths from Place Broglie to Place Kléber in hues of blues, reds and golds. But even TC’s deflating words (“it’s just cheap lighting!”) weren’t quite enough to spoil the fun.