Saturday, September 11, 2010

Our Day in Alsace

We were already docked when the alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. on Friday, September 10.  Dozens of swans swam near the ship including a youngster who has not yet turned white.  We hurried through breakfast and took off for a canal cruise and walking tour of Strasbourg, France.

The beauty of Strasbourg
I did not realize that the old city of Strasbourg is an island surrounded by a lovely canal.  The architecture is quite different from what we have seen in the last few days.  I’m not a student of architecture, so I can’t really describe it.  Our guide described them as “half-timbered houses” with roofs made of terra cotta tiles shaped a little like beaver tails.

There are flowers everywhere, mostly geraniums -- adorning bridges, filling window boxes, encircling lampposts.  We went through two small locks on the River Ill (pronounced “eel”) during the canal cruise.  I am certain that the sounds I hear in the middle of the night are the sounds of making our way through a lock.

Looking skyward at the Cathedral
The Strasbourg Cathedral is, of course, the centerpiece of the old city.  It’s spiral rises hundreds of feet in the air.  The next time you are frustrated when a home remodeling project takes longer than expected, remember this:  it took 250 years to build this cathedral!  As in other cities we have visited, the cathedral is under constant repair and renovation.

During our free time, we shopped a bit and took pictures as we walked from street to street.  Strasbourg is charming and definitely a place to return to. These visits are all too short!

In the afternoon, we took an optional bus tour along the Alsace wine road which is 190 km long and passes through over 100 villages and countless wineries.  Before getting on the wine road, we saw fields adorning both sides of the motorway, primarily corn grown for oil and white cabbages to be turned into sauerkraut or "choucroute." You can actually smell the cabbage!

Each time we wove our way through the narrow streets of a village, I wanted to stop the bus and see the sights.  This is one of the problems with being on a tour; you trade off your freedom to explore in exchange for the security of a bus and guide.

At some of the villages, we had to pass through stone portals dating from the 13th and 14th centuries.  Our 21st century bus was only inches away from the sides of the portals.  DH and I could see scrapings on the portal walls from drivers who were not quite as adept as Willi, our driver for the day.  We encountered a detour and Willi had to back up the bus!

Wine Tasting - Yum!
In the town of Barr, we visited Domaine Klipfel and tasted four different wines from the Alsace wine region: a Reisling, a Pinot Gris, a Pinot Noir, and a Gewürztraminer .  Wonder of wonders -- DH and I were actually able to taste the difference between these wines and the ones that we normally buy from Trader Joe’s!  David explained each of the wines and gave us hints about what foods would best accompany them. Surprisingly, I liked the Gewürztraminer the best.  It is a wine that I usually do not like.  But this one was exceptionally spicy and not overly sweet.  “Gewurzt” means spicy in German.  David said it was normally served with strong cheese or foie gras at holiday time.  It is best if stored for 5-6 years.  I think I’ll look for a nice bottle when we get home.  I’d like to serve this wine to my French brother-in-law who thinks that only red wine should be served with cheese!

On the way home, we made a short visit to the lovely town of Obernai, also called Little Strasbourg, where I bought a "bretzel."  How can you visit Germany without having a pretzel?

Captain’s farewell dinner is tonight.  We’ll be staying onboard tomorrow and not going on the trip to the Black Forest so we can relax, pack, and get these blog posts posted.  After so many days of vacation, I do not need a piece of Black Forest cake!

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