Strasbourg was one of those happy delightful accidents, when the path that life takes you on turns out to be even more wonderful than the plan that you would have chosen for yourself. We were still trying to find ways to visit the Black Forest without actually staying there, unfortunately our budget just would not allow it during peak season. So we left La Bresse in France and headed a few hours north to another French location just west of the Black Forest. If possible, I would have chosen to stay in the north part of the Black Forest. Less driving and it was the place that I wanted to see. But if I'd had my wish, I never would have discovered a city that has become one of my very favourite in the world, it made the top 5 list of our trip!
* Skyler's top 5 cities in Europe from the crazy Gilbert trip *
2. Strasbourg, France.
3, 4 & 5....Coming Soon!
I had never even heard of Strasbourg before. It sits right in the North Eastern corner of France in the Alsace region and it beautifully combines French and German architecture and influences. To me, it was pure magic!
Of course, in typical Gilbert fashion, actually getting there was anything but magical. We had the usual stress and general chaotic nightmare that seems to accompany us whenever we move location. Too much stuff. That is my conclusion in hindsight. But as complete novices to the whole 'lets pack up our life and travel the world with all our kids' thing, we were just fumbling through.
In leaving a place, it was always extremely difficult to;
1. clean up.
2. Attempt to keep the kids involved in the process so that we didn't feel like their slaves while they just bummed around watching the work happen.
3. Appease squawking baby.
4. Feed the mob.
5. Squeeze all of our belongings into our too tiny vehicle.
6. Get out on time.
You get the idea - exhausting! But worth it of course. Well, we finally arrived in Strasbourg, miraculously found a car park, and then managed to haul all of our crap up 2 flights of stairs and into our little apartment. Major achievement.
Then, we walked. And the magic began...
It was a warm sunny afternoon, and as we made our way across beautiful bridges and looked around at the gorgeous medieval architecture and quaint houses on the riverbank, the world seemed calm, happy and quite simply, wonderful.
We found a little squished house that looks just like 'Stuart Little's' house! What do you think?
We found a gorgeous Cathedral - The Reformed Church of Saint Paul. We just stumbled upon this magnificent building as we were crossing a bridge, unfortunately it was shut, but the exterior was very impressive and beautifully situated.
On we walked, we just wandered around not really knowing where we were going. it was so much fun! I had been oohing and aahhing over the last church that we had seen, but little did I know that I was about to clap eyes on the most stunning and mind blowing building of our whole trip...
We rounded a corner, and I got my first glimpse of what was to become my favourite Gothic church.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral de Strasbourg was described by Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and delicate marvel", and by Goethe as a "sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God". My feelings were similar. It was amazing, simply amazing! The colour has a beautiful rose tint to it and the detail and size of the structure are awe-inspiring.
While I was basking in lofty thoughts of grandiose Romanesque architecture and admiring the magnificence of the detailed ancient artistry before me, my kids wasted no time in locating the nearest water source and saturating themselves. There is never any little reasonable cooling off in the sprinkler for my kids. Nope, they deliberately jumped all in and thoroughly soaked themselves, head to foot! 'Sigh'.
Then as we walked home, Zahli decided to kiss every street lamp that we passed. Yes I told her to stop and that it was a great way to pick up germs. Did she listen? Nope. What can I say, kids are gross!?!
There is a section of Strasbourg called 'Little Paris'. It is simply divine. I couldn't get enough of the beautiful buildings and funky vibe of the city. We truly felt like we were transported back in time and wandering through the streets of an adorable and romantic 'Little Paris'. Well, all except for the soaking wet germ filled post kissing kids tagging along for the ride.
After dark, we just hadn't had enough of this beautiful city, so we wandered out again and made straight for the Cathedral. I couldn't believe our luck, for we arrived exactly on time for a magnificent light show!! It was free. We were simply ushered in, we took a seat on the ground, and watched the most wonderful musical light show that I have ever seen. I will remember it forever.
Wandering back though the city at night was even more magical, all those adorable buildings and bridges were softly lit up and we walked and ate ice-cream and felt joyfully grateful to have this chance.
There was so much about our journey that was pure struggle. But then there were times like this that made everything worth it. My mind is full of light and contentment when I think about Strasbourg. Was it perfect? No of course not. The baby still cried, sleep was difficult because of the outside noise, and then there was the whole wet germy kid thing... But I believe that we should look at what we can be grateful for, the struggles are real, but they make the good times so precious. Our day in Strasbourg was a gift. We had left all that was familiar and together discovered a place full of adventure, fun and magic.