Strasbourg became my favorite city of all the ones we visited on this trip, and I hadn’t even heard of it before I started planning our summer vacation. A German friend and a friend residing in Germany both recommended Strasbourg as a worthwhile stop. Situated on the northeastern border of France in the Alsace region, Strasbourg had been annexed by the neighboring Germany from time to time until ultimately reverting back to a French city. The resulting amalgamation of French-German culture and wine was nothing short of magical. There are few things in life better than a paper-thin slice of tarte flambée topped with onions, cream, and bacon, paired with a cold, crisp glass of refreshingly dry Alsatian riesling. French influence gave hearty German food exactly what it needed, resulting in a more refined, elevated cuisine. Butter indeed makes everything better. We feasted on choucroute Alsacienne (charcuterie, sausages, and potatoes generously garnished with sauerkraut), fleischschnacka (rolled pasta stuffed with meat and onions), coq au vin (chicken stewed in wine), and foie gras pâté, among other classic Alsatian dishes, and the kids got their daily fix of buttery escargot while I stuffed my face with tarte flambée at every opportunity. When it came to regional cuisine, Strasbourg had all the other cities beat by a wide margin.
While food has always been my overriding priority, the city itself was astonishingly beautiful. Charming architecture set against romantic waterways and lovely flower-lined cobblestones took my breath away. Although there was plenty about Strasbourg that made it attractive to tourists, much like Paris it derived its attractiveness from innate beauty and intrinsic delights, unlike so many of the other towns we visited that existed mainly for the sake of tourists. As the seat of the European Parliament and European Union, and with France’s largest student population outside of Paris, Strasbourg was a real, vibrant city, one that we felt lucky to have discovered. Another bonus was its location by the Alsace Wine Route. We rented a car to drive along the famous route and visit neighboring towns that were all charming and picturesque. After this trip we joked that we had been so visually oversaturated with charming and picturesque villages that they had become boring. For much of the drive the kids had their noses buried in their Kindles and had to be admonished to look out of the window. Each time I yelled at them to admire the scenery, they would oblige with an exasperated, “Okay, Mom!” and glance outside before returning to their books.
Wine tasting along the Alsace Wine Route wasn’t as fun as I had hoped it would be. I’m nowhere near proficient enough to conduct a wine tasting in French, and was embarrassed and too self-conscious about acting like an American tourist. Strasbourg and the other villages along the wine route, including the enchanting Colmar, inspired newfound respect, and a passionate fondness, for riesling. I’m also partial to Crémant d’Alsace: just as tasty as champagne, but cheaper! What’s not to love?
Our last two excursions, to the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle and to Parc de l’Orangerie to visit its resident storks, were fantastic. Everything about Strasbourg and the surrounding Alsace region was fantastic. Give me good food and wine and something pretty to look at and I couldn’t be happier.