Sometimes I have rather romantic or idealistic visions of how I think my traveling life should be. A part of me would like to be the nomad back packer, following my nose and seeing where the tides take me. I would wear a huge Lowepro backpack with maybe a small billy strapped to the back and ankle hugging mountain shoes. Instead of hair products and make up remover in my toilet bag I would have hand sanitiser and water purifying tablets.
However, I prefer to know where I am staying each night, to have a warm shower ready and carry a more orthopedically sound roller suitcase.
Though I do prefer the comfortable traveling life, that is not to say I don’t enjoy the excitement of turning up in a new city (with my booked accommodation and warm shower) and roaming un-guided. I like the challenge and I feel the potential for discovery is greater if I haven’t memorised an entire Google Maps itinerary.
I’m not sure if this makes me a good, adaptable and resilient traveler or a stupid one, but my latest weekend in Strasbourg took the more un-planned route and it was one of my best trips away yet.
We arrived in Strasbourg late Friday afternoon after a very pleasant 4 hour train ride through the western part of Switzerland. As a side note, Switzerland looks lovely and is going on must-see travel list. Our accommodation in Strasbourg was a great find: hostel prices with motel facilities as well as clean towels each day and only a 10 minute walk from the old town centre.
Friday was the warmest day we have had in a very long time and we were even able to eat dinner outside. Elle, Pippa and I went to an Italian restaurant where we met some of Elle’s friends and fellow language assistants in Strasbourg. I ordered a mushroom and sun-dried tomato risotto. It was creamy yet not overly rich and of a far more manageable portion size than the whole pizza that we so regularly end up with in Italian restaurants here.
Saturday morning we woke to a slightly overcast and cooler day but this did not deter us. We set off to find breakfast/lunch, or whatever meal we were currently due; the best holidays are always when they follow a trail of delicious meals rather than tourist sights. We walked around the old town stumbling across markets of every kind and squares of every size. The architecture was beautiful again; I am beginning to very much like the Germanic style. We found a quirky little side street pub with a french waiter wearing a kilt. For the very reasonable price of €5.90 I had une quiche lorraine avec salade et une orangina.
In the afternoon we bought pretzel shaped sugar doughnuts and ate them by the river as we waited to board our boat tour. The boat tour began with interesting and amusing information on the history of Strasbourg and the various events that had occurred on and by the river Ill over the centuries. We were told of the apparently humane change in torture techniques at one bridge. The House of Regret where people about to be hung could get a meal and a glass of wine on their last night was pointed out, as well as former brothels turned war-time barracks turned boarding school. We went through two locks, all the while the river over looked by blossom trees with fresh green tips. However, the dull and, at times incomprehensible, Irish accent of the narrator seemed to run out of interesting and relevant information.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around; a stroll through the Cathedral; two different encounters with Charlie Chaplin street performers; a rose-sculpted Gelato here and a hot chocolate there. It was all quite lovely, the perfect way to be a tourist I feel.
A night out is very hard to come by here in Bonneville so we decided to treat ourselves in Strasbourg. We started off our night at a Mexican themed club on a boat and finished in a converted cellar fittingly called Underground Club. The best part of the night was walking home in the wee hours of the morning through the deserted streets of Strasbourg playing camera wars and generally seeing who could make the biggest fool of himself.
A brief stop for postcards and we were back on a train early Sunday afternoon. I absolutely loved Strasbourg. It has a wonderful feel about it that I can’t quite describe but I think I would be quite happy to live there… No, I don’t think the nomadic traveler is quite me.