Highlights of Strasbourg (and a guide to events you shouldn’t miss)

I’m sure you’ve already seen hundreds of pictures of those cute little European villages with colorful half-timbered houses on Instagram and in glossy travel magazines.

You know, the houses that look like they were taken straight out of a fairy tale.

Maybe you’ve already been to some of those villages. Or maybe you’d love to, but you worry you might get bored if you spend your vacation somewhere small and slightly remote. Maybe you’re more of a shopaholic and a partylover, and the city life is what it’s all about.

As much as you’d love to feel like Belle (or Gaston, if you’re a guy reading this) from Beauty and the Beast while strolling along the little streets of an idyllic village, you just can’t escape the fact that you need something more than that. Is it possible to have a bit of Disney-magic and the urban city-life all at once?

Of course it is!

In the Alsace region in northeastern France, you’ll find plenty of those charming little villages and small towns (examples; Colmar and Eguisheim) – and a city just as gorgeous.

The capital of the Alsace region, home of the European Parliament:

Welcome to Strasbourg.

tourism strasbourg

Back in July, I visited Strasbourg with my mother and one of her friends. Traveling with my mom can be a bit of a challenge sometimes, as she’s someone who could easily spend a full day shopping and an entire evening in a cozy wine bar.

Me, on the other hand, I prefer visiting historical sites and taking pictures of places, people and nature. During our stay in Strasbourg, we both had to make a few compromises, and things didn’t always go smooth as butter (which is often the case when traveling with others) but at the end of the day, everyone ended up being quite satisfied with the trip.

We arrived by train and stayed at the modern hotel Apart’hotel Strasbourg Wilson which is conveniently located close to the central train station, and has an indoor swimming pool. Breakfast was not included in the rate, but I didn’t mind paying the additional fee so I could enjoy the varied breakfast buffet. The rooms come with a fully equipped kitchen, which gives you the freedom to prepare your own breakfast in bed – in case you’d rather not spend that extra money, or you prefer having your breakfast in bed!

flammkuchen le kuhn

We filled our bellies with local specialties, such as the crispy and delicious flammkuchen/tarte flambée (photo above) at Le Kuhn, a veggie-version of the traditionally very meaty Baeckeoffe at Le Baeckeoffe , we stopped by a bakery for some kugelhopf and spent a couple of hours enjoying some refreshing Pinot Gris white wine and sandwiches at L’Épicerie. If Pinot Gris is too sweet for you, maybe a glass of dry Riesling is more up your alley?

pinot gris

I didn’t get enough time (or space in my belly) to taste the famous Alsatian choucroute, so I’ll have to save that for next time. Sausages, salted meats and sauerkraut isn’t exactly something you’d eat on a warm day in mid-July anyway, is it?

While my mother and her friend were busy checking out postcards, fridge magnets and other items from the souvenir shop, I took my time to photograph the beautiful cathedral. The Strasbourg Cathedral is the sixth tallest church in the world, and is considered to be among the finest examples of late Gothic architecture. The cathedral houses one of Strasbourg’s popular tourist attractions; an 18-meter Astronomical Clock!

strasbourg cathedral

We walked past street musicians and painters. Souvenir shops and jewelry stores. Small boutiques and well-known chains. Restaurants and bakeries.

street musician

Snacking on French pastries and enjoying the sunshine, slow and steady, we made our way to the picturesque neighborhood, the one that looks all your fairy tale dreams.

Hello, La Petite France!

la petite france

Curiosity brought us to a nice little artisan market. As tempted as we were to buy something, we managed to move on and continue exploring the neighborhood without any additional bags in our hands.

market

La Petite France contains the historical city center, which is surrounded by water, with the River Ill and various canals cutting right through it. The neighborhood was once home to fishermen, millers and tanners who worked in this part of town.

Visit La Petite France by foot – or embark on a nice little boat trip and let your feet relax while you enjoy the beautiful view.

alsace tourism

My trip to Strasbourg, and my first encounter with Alsace (I’ve since been to Colmar as well) left me wanting more. So much more. I know I’ll have to return to Strasbourg to see all the things I missed out on. And damn sure I’ll be there for at least some of the amazing events that take place in the city!

Ahem. Anyone wanna come with me to the Christmas market?

These are the events you shouldn’t miss in Strasbourg

  • 10.-24. November: Jazzdor Festival (Jazz Music Festival). Celebrate the 32nd edition of the Jazzdor Festival. Around 15 venues will be hosting the event, so check out the program, book your ticket and jazz it up in Strasbourg!
  • 24. November – 30. December: The famous Christmas Market. The oldest Christmas market in France, the Christkindelsmärik has been a tradition in Strasbourg since 1570. I don’t know about you, but I sure need my dose of Christmas markets to really get into the Christmas spirit!
  • 1.-4. February: Sacred Music Festival – The music festival devoted to celebration of cultural differences and different religious beliefs. Build friendships and break down barriers, through music!
  • 21. June: Music Day (Fête de la Musique). This is an event that takes place absolutely everywhere in France. In every city, every small town, every village. The streets of the city become your dance floor and DJ’s, bands and artists will entertain you all day and all night long. Fingers crossed for good weather!
  • 14. July: Bastille Day (La fête Nationale). The most important event in France is definitely one worth experiencing. The national day is nationally celebrated by watching the military parades, followed by the biggest highlight of the year; the spectacular fireworks display!

strasbourg street

strasbourg architecture

strasbourg buildings

kugelhopf(Photo above: this is a Kugelhopf)

artist

restaurant france

baeckeoffe(Photo above: This is a veggie-version of the Baeckeoffe)

AirBrush_20170928122515(Photo above: Blending in at L’Épicerie)

 

 

 

 

 

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The botanical garden on the Cider Route in Normandy, France

Back in August, my parents traveled all the way from my native Norway to spend a week vacationing with me in France. More precisely in Normandy.

The beautiful region known for its apple cider (and calvados) production, cheese production (some smelly, others not so much)  and the quaint half-timbered houses that are ever so charming and fairy-tale-esque!

Being given a whole lot of responsibility and becoming my parents’ personal ambassador of France (you know, considering I live in the country and all) I went out of my way to make sure we wouldn’t spend a single second of the day being even remotely bored. While doing my Normandy-research, I found plenty of articles about some kind of a Cider Route.

“When in Lower Normandy, you have to check out the Cider Route (La Route du Cidre) in Pays d’Auge. It’s a 40 kilometers stretch of idyllic scenery, pretty little villages and home to several producers of the “AOC Pays d’Auge” cider”.

Alrighty, then. Off to the Cider Route, we go!

Was it worth exploring?

You bet your sweet ass, it was.

If you weren’t already in love with the French countryside before, you sure will be after a day or two spent exploring the scenic Cider Route. The rustic charm of the half timbered houses and old fashioned cafes, makes you feel like you’ve just stepped right into a fairy tale. The traditional farmer’s markets and the cider farms, now this is the icing on the cake. It sure completes the ambiance Normande!

But… Yes, there is a but.

As amazing as it all is, at one point you might wanna take a short break from all that cider shopping and village hopping and do something else, I’m certain.

Because things can get kind of repetitive. And you can get kind of broke.

Luckily, on the Cider Route itself, there is indeed another activity you shouldn’t look past.

cambremer

If you’re someone who enjoys photography (nature, macro, floral) , idyllic picnics, beautiful parks and romantic gardens – or you’re a painter/artist searching for inspiration; you’re in for a treat.

Creative souls and nature lovers alike; you are gonna love Les Jardins du Pays d’Auge (the gardens of Pays d’Auge)!

These charming botanical garden is open from May 1st until October 20th, which means you might want to hurry up if you wanna spend a day in this picturesque location before it’s closed for the season.

pays d'auge

Back in August, while exploring the Cider Route with my mother and stepfather, I took them to Jardins du Pays d’Auge – and, just as I expected, they loved every minute of it.

Well, except from maybe the thirty minutes of sudden rain showers. But hey, Mother Nature decided it was time to water the plants – and just happened to water the three of us at the same time!

According to the lady at the ticket counter, we would need about one hour and a half to quickly see everything Jardins du Pays d’Auge had to offer. The different themed gardens, such as the rosary, the devil’s garden (Jardin du Diable), the angel’s garden (Jardin des Anges), and the September garden (Jardins de septembre), were the perfect spots for photo-enthusiasts like myself – and my mother, to take lovely photos (of each other as well as the flowers and plants).

lavender

While strolling through the gardens, at one point you will end up wandering through a maze, which will then lead you to a cute little chapel. With music playing inside of it.

Apparently the gardens are available for wedding ceremonies, so I guess the chapel is used when celebrating the most romantic events of them all. The big day.

Would you set your future wedding to a botanical garden? I sure would (if my significant other was up for it)!

On site, there are some traditional half timbered houses open for guests to explore. These houses are fully equipped with different tools formerly used in production of food, hardware and clothing, back in the good, old days before modern day technology.

As my stepdad is an engineer and naturally curious about how everything is/used to be made, this was without a doubt his favorite part of the visit.

half timbered house

My mother, on the other hand, was ecstatic when we walked past a small stable with two donkeys in it.

Random, I know.

She went photo-crazy and took maybe thirty pictures of the poor animals, all from the exact same angle (as they were busy eating and couldn’t give a rats ass about my mom) and then she acted as stubborn as the donkeys themselves, when my stepdad tried to pull her away from them so that we could move on and continue our visit.

I’m not sure if it’s allowed to bring your own food into the gardens or not, but we did it anyway. Earlier that day, we bought a couple of sandwiches from a nice little bakery in the village of Cambremer (where Jardins du Pays d’Auge is located). We hid the goods in my stepdad’s backpack and saved them for the right occasion; picnic time in beautiful scenery!

If the weather (or the staff) is telling you your picnic ain’t gonna happen, and you happen to be so hungry you’d easily start chewing on flowers and leaves from the trees, fear not. Put the flowers down and wait until you’ve finished the tour around the gardens.

You see, on site – just in front of the entrance to the gardens – there is a lovely crêperie just waiting for your hungry belly to be fed with delicious galettes (savory pancakes) and crêpes (sweet pancakes).

normandy

Well, if you’re visiting the gardens between May and September, that is.

My parents and I, finished our sandwiches, finished the tour, and ended our visit. The rain showers had made the grass wet and slippery, which again had made our shoes wet and muddy. But it didn’t bother me, nor my parents. In fact, my stepdad was thrilled.

“Now, this has been a great day. Beautiful scenery. Tranquility. This beats all the villages that kind of look the same, anyway”.

His words, not mine.

Go to LesJardinsduPaysdAuge.com for more information and updates.

normandy gardens

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