December 22, 2013

Mom and Me in Strasbourg, France

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:11 pm by newsurroundings

Guest blogger Erin here. I have provided a headshot to make the read easier (you can picture me speaking the words while peering over my reading glasses). Mom has asked me a few times to write a guest blog post but today is the day that I declare it will happen as I have plopped myself down at the kitchen table with my Grinch t-shirt, librarian glasses, and block of Toblerone swiss chocolate until I finish this post once and for all. Last May, after our trip to Barcelona, I was going to write a post blasting EasyJet since we were less than impressed with our 3 hour wait to board the plane, and especially the stout man who demanded our carry-on luggage meet dimensions barely large enough to contain a purse. In summary, we showed EasyJet that we weren’t playing their games, but I won’t go into that. But instead of listing my airline grievances, I will write about our recent trip to Strasbourg, France.

Photo on 2013-12-22 at 13.51Mom and I decided on Strasbourg because I had one requirement for our annual mother-daught trip: I wanted to go to France. On my first two winter trips to Europe, we had “holiday” in Paris and Lille, and then my summer in France was spent in Marseille, Montpellier, Aix,  Nimes, and Provence. So we (mom) researched other places in France that neither of us have visited- and we (she) discovered  Strasboug, in Alsace, with the most Christmas spirit of any place I’ve ever been. (Yes, Americans, even more than the Rockefeller Center in NYC on Christmas day with Santa Claus himself there on the ice rink).

To start the journey, a small Italian man (I don’t remember if he was small, but by default I describe any semi-kind Italian as a “small Italian man”) took us to the Lugano train station for our five hour train ride. Luckily, as I was still jet-lagged, I was able to sleep for about 3  hours. Meanwhile, mom studied her Italian. Unfortunately, all this studying would not prove helpful in France, particularly at our last dinner where she showcased a blank stare each time the waiter spoke- more on that later.mom stdyingHere are some photos of the town. It has a lot of German flair- note the half-timbered buildings- but also very French areas. I really enjoyed “Petite France,” mostly because the shopping was supreme. Also, note the Christmas decorations everywhere!strausburgstrauburgfranceerbeareuropeandecorationme and momcathedral

Strasbourg had really really really REALLY really great shopping, which we took advantage of because the prices are much better in France than Switzerland. The first day we found a journal shop where we both went crazy- 8 journals total were purchased. I was able to buy a new planner, which I had been wanting. Side story: I have used a planner from the same company for the last two years, and it’s not a secretive company, but now everyone has them so I had to buy a new journal that cannot be purchased within U.S. borders. End of story. But my most prized purchase was a fur hat!  I had really wanted a piece of fur attire because that is the hot thing over here! Mom kept telling me to think about it, sleep on it, etc etc, especially since wearing fur can be frowned upon in the US. But I had already made up my mind and so a few hours after finding the perfect fur hat, we marched back in and purchased it. Mom enjoyed shopping in a yarn shop, where we spent probably 2 hours total (not exaggerating). She bought some Alpaca yarn, so I guess she bought fur too in her own motherly way.

Probably the most adventurous thing we did, but didn’t intend to do, was climb to the top of the cathedral. We were trying to find the entrance to the monstrous place, and we ended up blindly following a crowd into a small room with a desk, where you pay a fee to enter. Warning sign #1: Don’t follow blindly. Warning sign #2: Usually cathedrals are free. Also, everything was in French so we didn’t stop to try to decode the signs, but instead we assumed that the signs said exactly what we hoped they said. After we paid and got our tickets, we started walking up a tightly wound spiral staircase. Warning sign #3: Cathedrals are not elevated above ground. Typically (always), you can walk directly into them instead of climbing up stairs. So we kept walking and walking, making comments like “This is not what I signed up for!” Then “Why are we going up so high…?” and finally “I think this goes to the top..” Warning Sign #4: We are 200 feet above ground. Pictured below is mom post sitting down for a rest. She is starting to stand back up because the people behind up were about to catch up to us.mom on stairs

As you can assume, we ended up walking all the way up the stairs to the tip top of the cathedral. Refer back to the earlier photos to see exactly how high it is. But we did get some beautiful views at the top, which we relished for approximately 30 seconds before we staggered back down the spiral stairs. (We did not care about the views).

viewThe best thing about France is, no doubt, the food. The bread is surreal. Surreal, I say. The croissants are unlike any croissant you have ever tasted. After spending summers in France, when I came back and saw a sign at Wendy’s advertising croissants, I was so repulsed that I had to be bedridden for 2 weeks. The thing is I can’t describe it to someone who has not tasted it, but even here in Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, and Germany, all surrounding countries, they do not even compare. Did you know that France has certain requirements for how to make croissants? It’s a cooking law! You can only tweak the recipe so much. I’m glad the French are snooty because you have got to know what a great thing you have to put laws on it. breadFor our last dinner, we made a reservation at a restaurant we found set back a bit from the busy street. The restaurant did not open until 7pm and when the clock struck 7:00pm we were at the front ready to be seated. Our waiter led us upstairs, through a doorframe so small you had to crouch to get through, to the back corner. This picture doesn’t quite do it justice, but I tried to capture how close mom’s head is to the ceiling. This just shows the table beside us from where I was seated. But on my right was the railing, which had two small buckets hanging off the side- one for our drinks and the other for our bread. It was hard to be relaxed, though, with the fear that one wrong move of the elbow and I could send the buckets tumbling over the edge and crashing onto the guests below up. But thankfully that did not happen, and we were able to enjoy our best seats in the house, overlooking the entire restaurant. mom at restaurantMom had multiple interactions with the waiter, first when he took our reservation, the awkwardness when he was asking for our coats but mom continued reiterating that we had a reservation. Then when she ordered wine and he asked what kind, mom responded with a universal blank stare, he listed options, and then she repeated back probably whichever one was easiest to say. But it’s okay, mom, Italian is your language! I was able to take over the speaking parts for the rest of our meal. Luckily from a few years of French, I remembered some important words for the meal- “water,” “we are finished”- that is about it, I believe. In my imagination we had a full conversation and I was fluent. Here are our delicious meals! hamgerman foodfrench foodcheesecakeFrench food is so amazing. I don’t know why, it must be the way they cook it. But French food is the best, and Belgian food comes in a close second. All other countries do not get ratings- very sorry about that. This was the most appropriate conclusive meal for our trip- an offset restaurant, an impatient French man, a three course meal, and an overall two hour occasion. The next day we bought croissants at a nearby patisserie and were on our way back to Lugano! Au revoir!

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