jeudi, novembre 16, 2006

Us in Strasbourg

I have always liked Strasbourg. Now that I am living in Germany, I love it.

Strasbourg has always been special. Separated by a river between France and Germany, it had at different periods in its History alternated between being German and French. And even when it's French, Napoleon gave it (Alsace) special status (e.g. in its Social Security laws) and like the Germans they eat spätzle and sausages and make Riesling wine.

But trust me, Strasbourg is French and very much so. We often wonder how this city can be so near Germany and yet be so French :-). When you cross over to Strasbourg from Kiel (on the German side), it gets dirtier and messier. But the old city is simply beautiful, with quaint little shops (the window displays, the goods on offer etc are immediately better, more varied and more interesting), wonderful pastry shops and most important of all - great restaurants. And that is what differentiated Strasbourg from Germany and confirm its very Frenchness.

Even the Kebab is tastier in Strasbourg. It is made of real meat piled up one on top of the other. Not like the factory-concocted slab of tasteless meat that we usually find in the Turkish-owned Kebab shops in Germany. So we may occasionally take away a Kebab sandwich as we leave Strasbourg - for the son.

We try to visit the city once every 2 months. It's about 2 hours from Stuttgart by car. We usually arrive in time for lunch, and would either eat in the Chinese restaurant at the entrance of the old city (needless to say, even the usually lousy Chinese food in France is better than the usual Chinese food in Germany - don't ask me why), or at Kammerzell (

Kammerzell is wonderful, a very old Strasbourgeois house just opposite the beautiful Cathedral. It has a good menu with the usual choucroute (sour cabbage - a Chinese invention for those unaware of that), onion tart, steak, foie gras...and includes a very good variety of seafood dishes. One of my most memorable was its Foie Gras poêlé et Lotte (pan-seared duck liver and Burbot), a delicious marriage of meat and fish, turf and surf. And the desserts also make it very French, ranging from fruit tarts (not the heavy jello sort), to home-made sorbets and ice-creams, chocolate parfaits etc etc. I always make sure that I make room in the stomach for dessert when I'm there. A bonus - 2 children under 10 eat lunch for free and they do not serve you nuggets with fries, but real food e.g. grilled salmon with pasta, chicken in cream sauce...The service needless to say is good, the maître d'hôtel takes obvious pride in his work.

After lunch, we would usually do a bit of shopping. Books (e.g. France Loisirs, FNAC...), clothes and shoes (Héraud, Jonak, Minelli...), and especially food (Monoprix, Paul, Atac, Auchan...). We never fail to bring back a few delicious bread and pastries from Paul, a few good cuts of beef (e.g. bavette, onglet, côte de boeuf...), seafood (oysters, scallops, crabs, cooked pink and grey prawns, stingray...), Bonne Maman cookies, Badoit Rouge mineral water etc etc. We've even invested in a cooler that'll be able to keep our purchases cool during the ride home. In the afternoon, we often had tea at Christian's, a tea salon just opposite the Cathedral, with delicious cakes and pastries and home-made whipped cream.

On our last visit, as my mom was with us, we took a boat ride down the river. There we realised that the city was even prettier than we thought. We got to see the European Parliament buildings as well. We'll certainly go on the boat ride again when we next bring other visitors to the city!

One more thing : they make very good foie gras and Gewurzstraminer (I especially love the vendange tardive wines) in the region. We've yet to visit a few of the wine makers as we wanted to, but we'll try to do so before we leave Germany.

Bon voilà a short write-up on Strasbourg.

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