Sunday, February 19, 2017

Strasbourg Part One

The first feeling we had in France as we set out to explore, was freedom. After such a great deal of cold days, we were unsure how to feel about how to dress for ONLY 32 degree weather. We joked about wearing shorts, which should tell you that we had definitely gone off the deep end just a little.

It's hard to rank the places on our trip against one another, because they really were all pretty wonderful in their own ways, but Strasbourg would probably have one of the higher rankings in our book. 

Our FlixBus from Zurich to Strasbourg got us there in right around three hours (give or take, I can't remember) and it was a significant savings over the train. We've grown to enjoy trains in Europe and I'd heard stories about cramped buses, but this one was comfortable and there were lots of open seats, so we each had our own row and spread out. It may have been more comfortable than a train, except for the fact that the bathroom didn't work. 

We passed through Basel on our way and got to see a little bit of the city since the bus stopped there to pick up more passengers. We also stopped at an airport just across the Switzerland/France border, where the driver told everyone who wanted to that we could make a quick dash to the restrooms inside.

We spent two nights in France. We've used Booking.com exclusively for our lodging since we've been in Europe and have been happy with all our choices. We rented an apartment in Strasbourg (it's called Unik's Home on Booking.com), and though we've done that before, we've never done it through a private home before. I think this was probably similar to AirBnB, a service we've never used. The apartment owner (Stan) met us at the door, showed us in (up four flights of stairs with no elevator!), gave us restaurant recommendations, told us where things were in the city, and handed over the keys before telling me to text him if we needed ANYTHING. He was very friendly, and the apartment might have been my favorite accommodation so far.



We meandered looking for a restaurant that was both affordable and delicious looking and settled on this one. I ordered Flammkuchen (in France they call it Tarte Flambe), Carson ordered a potato dish, and Danita and Fern ordered pizzas.

We saw this cute little dog hanging out in a closed shop as we walked past.

This hotel would have an amazing view. Our apartment was terrific, but the view here would be spectacular.



After wandering the nearly empty streets (it was Saturday night and the stores closed early for the most part), we retired to our cozy apartment.

Breakfast wasn't provided since it wasn't a hotel, and since we hadn't gotten out until shops were closed the night before, we couldn't cook breakfast in the morning. So we made due and had crepes. Poor us.

Here's the view from our apartment. Not too bad.

We'd considered attending church at the Cathedrale but none of us are Catholic and we were afraid our presence might be taken as gawking tourists (which honestly probably wouldn't have been wrong), so we didn't go to church. I'd intended to look up options and then it totally slipped my mind.

We did do something we hadn't planned on and went on a boat tour. For an hour and fifteen minutes, we traveled up and down the canals learning about the history of Strasbourg and the significance of various sights along the way. What a fantastic tour! It was all pre-recorded audio, and each person could hear in the language of their choice. We learned a lot and got to see places that we wouldn't have otherwise known about.


Council of Europe. Strasbourg is one of three capitals of the EU.


After our boat trip, we went up in the tower of Notre Dame. My legs were shaking so hard after this (something my muscles love to do after lots of stairs - they look like a scared, cold dog - that's the best way I know how to describe that).




The square by the Cathedral during the day.


We returned to the apartment to rest for a minute and to switch out the laundry we'd done earlier. There wasn't a dryer but it was nice to have clean socks and underwear in our bags!

Someone fell asleep on the job (that would be me)

Back in the cold, we stopped by a bakery and grabbed some eclairs.


We stopped by this statue of Gutenberg. Remember when we went to the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz?


We walked through La Petite France. It was adorable but has a less than adorable history and was named in the 15th Century because in this area there was an outbreak of syphilis and there was a hospice for those afflicted on this island. It was called the French disease at the time, and so somehow that's how it got its name. Thankfully the buildings have stuck around while the disease did not. We learned this on our boat tour, or we'd still think this was just an adorable part of town.





You know those people that draw caricatures and portraits in touristy places? Well, I got to sit down with one of them. Danita pushed me into the chair and made me pose for a portrait. It's very interesting sitting there looking at a stranger for what feels like hours (it was about 20 minutes) while people walk by and look at you and look at the artwork, trying to decide if it's a good job. It was more eyes on me than I'd prefer. Without looking at my phone, I snapped a picture of Carson taking a picture of this moment. I have to say too that I don't feel like it looks that much like me, although the artist was clearly talented. Everyone else thought it was a pretty good dupe though.





Next we went to the Barrage Vauban, a 17th century covered bridge that was designed to protect the city. You can walk around inside and on top, where you'll find a pretty great view of the city.







 I'll leave the rest of our trip for the next post. I'm sorry! I just took too many pictures!

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Zurich Day 2

We got to sleep in just a little bit on our first morning in Zurich. Our hotel had an okay, not great breakfast that we got to enjoy leisurely while talking over our plans for the day. At 9:45, we met our fellow Fulbrighter Jenna at the train station. She lives in Germany on the Swiss-German border in Konstanz, which is about an hour away from Zurich. We walked around and explored the city with her.








We visited the Grossmunster, which is the very same church where Zwingli began the Swiss Reformation 500 years ago. I took a European Reformation class in college and it's fun to visit some of the places where big things happened in history.

We went up the stairs into the tower where we got a fantastic view of the city. The stairs were wooden and creaky and it sort of scared me, especially going down. I don't think the stairs themselves were 500 years old, but they didn't seem up to the task or up to building codes, and I just wasn't a fan.























Twenty thousand dollar watch, anybody?




We took Flixbus for the first time. It ended up being much cheaper than a train between Zurich and Strasbourg and it was quite comfortable. I think I like trains the best because they're faster, but for reasonable distances, this was a good option!
 The bus stopped in Basel so we got to see that city a little bit too. I didn't really get any good pictures of it, but it looked pretty, and it's on the Rhine!


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