Friday, September 6, 2013

Strasbourg, France: Around Town

No really. It's a round town. See?

The "old town" of Strasbourg is conveniently wrapped by a canal.  The center area is called the Grande Ile.  Down at the bottom left of the Grande Ile is a smaller cluster of canals and half-timbered-house-cuteness called Petite France. Along with Petite France, much of the Grande Ile is a large pedestrian-only area (we like those).  A very nice and modern-looking tram also goes through parts of the Grande Ile.

super quiet, so watch out!
I had thought we might need public transportation to get around (the day pass is inexpensive), but we ended up walking onto town from our hotel, just outside of the canal ring near the train station.  If we had ventured to some other kid-friendly Strasbourg Pass activities, many of them outside the Grande Ile, we might have used it, but we pretty much stayed in the old center the whole time.

nice day for it
Our time in Strasbourg was split over two half-days, with a little road trip down the wine route to Colmar on the day in between (next post). The Strasbourg tourist office offers a useful family guide highlighting kid-friendly activities, as well as a very compact "city walk" especially for kids, in which they embark on a 6-question scavenger hunt for things like carvings on buildings and special sign posts.  It also includes some interesting and kid-accesible history of the city along the way.  
Familiciti rali is the scavenger hunt booklet.  I like to say it with an Italian accent.
finding an answer
We got about four questions in before we were discouraged to find we couldn't answer the next question about a garden because it was blocked off by construction.  We'd already climbed the cathedral and sat through the cathedral clock presentation that day, and it was quite hot, so we cut the hunt short for ice cream.

So moving on...we spent some time in this little square near the water, called Place du Marché aux Cochons de Lait, which means Market Square for Suckling Pigs. 
Mom and Dad bottom right
Many of the roads and squares in town are named after the goods that were once sold there.  I liked imagining each one as it might have been in the Middle Ages, full of fish or wine or suckling pig merchants.
dining in the suckling pig square
Tarte flambée, or flammekueche, a quintessential  Alsatian dish.  My friend warned us not to eat any ham or cheese before we went to Alsace, because that would be all we would eat.  Good tip.
picking out a postcard with the suckling pig market on it
Another item covered by the Strasbourg Pass was a boat tour circling the canal ring and through Petite France.

Same boat tour company as in Paris, I think
Audio guide available in about a dozen languages.  We listened to the English kids' version.  It was narrated by an an Australian-sounding pirate (and his parrot)  and an American-sounding little boy.  We enjoyed it, and the kids found it hilarious.
family resemblance much?
Petite France
 Petite-France and Grand-Dad
"Covered bridges" at the end, turning around
waiting in the locks to get in/out of Petite France
The boat ride was definitely the highlight of our trip for the kids.

We also went in search for a traditional Alsatian cake, the Kugelhopf.  It's a cross between a bundt cake and a brioche pastry.

Found some.  Ate some.  Tasty!
Pete and I went for a walk in town one of the nights while the kids were in bed (Date!)

See how romantic it was?
first sight upon entering Petite France
Strasbourg is a university town (which may explain the above picture) and was quite lively at 11pm on a Tuesday night.

more Petite France
Rick Steves warns about overdosing on all the half-timbered-cuteness in these Alsatian towns.  I was starting to feel it by the end of the night.
oh so cute
Strasbourg verdict: we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this city, which felt not-too-big-but-not-too-small, is very beautiful, and has made some thoughtful attempts to engage people of all ages.  We'd like to come back on the train sometime to explore the museums and parks, or visit the Christmas market.

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