Much larger than quaint Riquewihr, nearby Strasbourg is the capital of the Alsace region, the European Union AND Christmas. We were fortunate enough to find an available AirBnB only a few blocks away from the city’s famous Cathedral in a building dating to the 16th century. Not only did it boast a prime location, but also views of both the cathedral and the river, and giant timber beams that stretched across rooms. Our secret? We never shy away from walk-up apartments, and the payoff has always been worth the added flights of stairs.
This was our first trip to France, and in Strasbourg, all of our long held expectations were met. Bakeries filled every few storefronts. There was a beautiful market filled with fresh fruits and vegetables and cheeses and more. The store mannequins and city pedestrians were chicly dressed. And our children were quickly shushed upon boarding the city’s river boat tour.
Despite that start, we all enjoyed the Batorama boat tour of Strasbourg. We were able to see all of the highlights, city fortifications, Petit France, the European Union Parliament. And since it was raining and cold, under the heated cover of the boat was the perfect vantage for taking in the city’s sights. There were audio tours for both adults and children, and Charlotte seemed thoroughly captivated by her tour guide. I was so excited to watch her sitting so intently beside her daddy, asking questions and telling us what she was learning. All of the children enjoyed watching as we were raised and lowered in the canals locks. Strasbourg is a completely walkable city, but, on a poor weather day, I would certainly recommend touring by water.
Strasbourg boasts the oldest Christmas markets in Europe, and they were easily the highlight of our stay. We were quick to venture out right as they opened for the season, as the forecast for rain grew more dire by the hour. We were lucky to squeeze in a few good hours of wandering through the stalls before bedtime and heavy rain both arrived. The dreary skies were just perfect, making it feel much later than midafternoon. The merry-go-round underneath the cathedral was the favorite of all three children, and Dennis and I enjoyed watching their delight with warm cups of gluhwein in hand. We ate sweets and shopped for Christmas ornaments. Charlotte searched patiently for the best nutcracker, at the best deal, and was so thrilled to find just the perfect nutcracker in a Christmas store that was both handsome and a bargain. This frugal mom was so proud!
After a warm and dry night in our beds, we woke to another very rainy morning which spoiled our plans for our last morning in Strasbourg. Fortunately, Dennis is an experienced dad by now and thought to search for a children’s museum. We were in luck, and found the fantastic Le Vaisseau science museum to while away a couple hours. The kids were in heaven, building with real cranes and manufacturing actual boxes. They kept reflecting on the children’s museum in Portsmouth, Virginia, so it felt good to take them somewhere somewhat familiar and missing in our corner of Spain. And there was the added bonus of watching them play with the French and German children. So, now Henry asks regularly to go back to the dinosaurs in Germany and the museum in France. What a kid.