Gingerbread Quest

9 10 2013

My goal in going to Europe was to eat a real French macaron in France and some real gingerbread in Germany. Luckily for me (due to events in Germany) Strasbourg is like the city of blurred lines – while it’s French, it’s so close to Germany (at times actually being part of Germany) – so you can fulfill most French and German food quests here. Let me demonstrate:

German pretzels in France

German pretzels in France

German gingerbread in France

German gingerbread in France

Ok, not food, but you get the idea.

Ok, not food, but you get the idea.

After flying Lufthansa (love!) into Frankfurt, we immediately had to catch a connecting train to go to Strasbourg. Except the train wasn’t actually connecting and was really leaving from the Frankfurt HBF, something our travel agent neglected to tell us. Whoops. So that was fun. We were sent to at least 4 different places in the airport itself before finally being sent on some random train there instead…with assigned seats…and so of course we had no where to sit and 2+ hours to go. The fun in Germany was clearly on a roll! But anyway we met a slightly creepy Helpful Stranger who thankfully let us know when we arrived in Offenburg so we could disembark and get lost once again. In the end, we did arrive at Strasbourg’s Gare Central and made it to our hotel which was like an oasis for the weary traveler. My view looked like this:

view from the Regent Contades

view from the Regent Contades

Then we were starving as usual, and we had great luck stumbling onto Le Michel with the most scrumptious quiche I’ve ever had:

michel1

beer, of course

beer, of course

something with rhubarb..looks a bit better than it tastes, but pretty tasty all the same

something with rhubarb..looks a bit better than it tastes, but pretty tasty all the same

In my mind, there are 3 must see attractions in Strasbourg: Notre Dame, the Palais Rohan, and Petite France. Try to go to Notre Dame before 11, because then they start shutting down admission in preparation of the astronomical clock doing its thing:

said astronomical clock

said astronomical clock

more clock

more clock

The beautiful inside of the church was too big to fit inside my 50 mm camera frame. :/

The beautiful inside of the church was too big to fit inside my 50 mm camera frame. :/

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My attempt at a panorama:

Notre Dame de Strasbourg

Notre Dame de Strasbourg

The church at night:

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It’s amazing to be in a cafe or souvenir shop and then peek out and see that church. So – If you’re into Versailles and such, you’d probably want to visit the Palais Rohan next. Leaving the church, it’s to the left, though there’s construction going on in front of it. Marie Antionette stayed there once! Ooh la!

front of the palace

front of the palace

Getting in was a bit confusing. The building houses like 3 or 4 museums, and if you just want to see the palace portion, your ticket won’t say “Rohan,” but instead “Museum of Decorative Arts” – except in French. They tell you to go into this stairwell but what they don’t say (at least in English) is not to go up or down the stairs, but instead directly to the right of them through a closed door…the kind of door that you’d probably be arrested for walking through in an American museum. Once inside there’s an attendant who can give you a guide to carry (English, French, or German), and they leave you alone to wander. I have no idea if they allow photos or not so tried to take some inconspicuously…it was too pretty not to.

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I mean, seriously, check out the opulence:

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view of Notre Dame from inside the Palais courtyard

view of Notre Dame from inside the Palais courtyard

There actually are “decorative arts” inside… part of it feels purely like a museum with lots of ceramics and, my favorite, and old clock room.

So then we headed for Petite France but had to stop in the Alsacean Museum… this is not one of the main “must see” areas, but I think it’s worth a look. It’s all about the “Alsace” region of France. The price isn’t too bad and photos are allowed everywhere. Plus there is this wall of vines that I’m obsessed with:

zomg. want.

zomg. want.

I took about 20 pictures but will spare you with only 2 more:

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They have a lot of colorfully painted cisterns:

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…as well as costumes and things people would have worn and cooked with:

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Okay, these aren't exactly things you cook with - I think actually farming equipment. But they could have doubled as torture instruments, no?

Okay, these aren’t exactly things you cook with – I think actually farming equipment. But they could have doubled as torture instruments, no?

No, really. It was a nice museum depicting a rich history of the French country lifestyle. Observe their adorable museum sign:

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There is no shortage of adorable things in Strasbourg. They have a….marigoround? Wow, I have no idea how to spell that. 😦 But anyway, it’s in the middle of this square and is over 100 years old:

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It even has a pig!

It even has a pig!

Of course nothing beats the adorableness of Petite France (despite the name which has to do with venerial disease – not kidding, see here.)

It’s all flowers and water and half-timbered German-looking buildings….fairy-tale-esque.

single house on a tiny spit of land

single house on a tiny spit of land

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They have glass-topped boats you can tour the area in. They were always packed, so it must be a popular thing. (It’s a big tourist city from what I can see – mostly French though, with a few Germans).

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boat waiting for a loch (spelling?) to open

boat waiting for a loch (spelling?) to open

There it goes! After enough water fills in, the boat can get through.

There it goes! After enough water fills in, the boat can get through.

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The water is surprisingly clear. Where I live the water has so much tanin, it’s a constant orange/brown color.

Well, there was plenty more to see. You could spend days walking. Also, eating:

giant meringue!

giant meringue!

Rather nasty biscuits (cookies). Maybe they were supposed to be dunked in coffee like biscotti? Still, they look awfully pretty.

Rather nasty biscuits (cookies). Maybe they were supposed to be dunked in coffee like biscotti? Still, they look awfully pretty.

Finally - macarons!!

Finally – macarons!!

There were surprisingly few macarons, but all I needed was one. One beautiful raspberry macaron.

me with my macaron (and gingerbread - see it?)...no time to stand still for pictures!

me with my macaron (and gingerbread – see it?)…no time to stand still for pictures!

And then there were the storks – the city has a bird obsession. I was sad not to see any there…they must only come in Spring to have babies…but their presence was felt in every souvenir shop that sold stuffed animal storks, stork embroidered towels, stork snow globes, and even in some hotels/restaurants that named themselves after the birds.

See the stork statue to the left?

See the stork statue to the left?

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And beyond all the gimmicks, there’s the general splendor:

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…and the Gare Central, the train station, where I spent too much time:

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I know you’re waiting to hear about something weird, possibly like England’s “clotted cream,” and well I won’t let you down. While flipping through the (naturally) predominately French TV channels, I stumbled on this hidden German gem:

?

?

It was strange and intriguing at once – a grumbly voiced puppet creature.. what is his purpose? Why is he grouchy? Why is this 15 minute segment playing over and over again (seriously – it was on every night on repeat).

He becomes Harry Potter.

He becomes Harry Potter.

Then he becomes Sailor Moon!

Then he becomes Sailor Moon!

I have since learned that this creature is Bernd das Brot, a childrens’ network mascot, who Wikipedia describes as a “chronically depressed loaf of bread.” Not kidding. See here. I find this fascinating. Why would they make the mascot for a childrens’ network depressed? Why is he bread? Yet somehow…I love it.

Anyway, the last attraction we got to was the Botanical Gardens. They’re free and have a walk-in rainforest-like greenhouse as well as a Christmas tree exhibit….I guess “Evergreen” is the better term.

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mysterious plant

mysterious plant

insect hotel

insect hotel

Minus a day trip to Germany, which I’ll get into in another post, this wrapped up the trip. I fulfilled my original food goal, though in a different way than expected, with one of the Alsace gingerbread hearts. It was so beautiful.

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I clung onto it for days, terrified for some illogical reason that Security wouldn’t let me carry it on the plane. I kept thinking of eating it and then not because I wanted to preserve it for home where I could properly enjoy it. Finally home and unpacked, I sat down to eat it in peace…and it was totally gross! I’m pretty sure it was close to a year old. Like eating spicy cardboard. Oh well. At least it was pretty. 🙂

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