In Europe, there is no shortage of breathtaking buildings – homes, castles, churches and fortresses, built over hundreds and thousands of years. The scale of construction is hard to take in – particularly when these buildings are still standing, proud and magnificent, after such an enormous amount of time, when many modern dwellings leak or crumble in a matter of moments.
Strasbourg has been both French and German many times throughout history (sometimes violently disputed), but has settled on the red, white and blue of France. However, it continues to represent both histories and cultures proudly, with a progressive attitude to the future. Strasbourg is the official seat of the European Parliament, with a significant diplomatic population. In 1988, for the first time, UNESCO classified the entire historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), a World Heritage site.
In April, I travelled with Avalon Waterways on a luxury river cruise along the Rhine, stopping in Strasbourg. It was an undeniable highlight of the trip.
The guides on the walking tour were personable, passionate and extremely flexible. It must be tricky to host a diverse group and cater to everyone, but they were amazing presenters – we walked and rode on a covered canal boat to cover as much of this incredible city as we could.
We had the option of some spare time to explore for ourselves, which was a treat, before meeting back at 5pm ‘for aperitif.’ How gloriously French!
The cobbled streets housed buildings that really belonged in children’s fairy tale stories, along with quaint shops (well thought out – wine shop next to a cheese shop, next to a bread shop…), and gorgeous cafes.
It was so intriguing to walk around that a group of us decided that we would stay in the city for dinner, and join the ship in time to sail later that evening.
We met in the square outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame to go to the appointed cafe for our aperitif. I had time, and left the formal tour before they went inside, so decided to see what it looked like inside. I must confess I had assumed the exterior was the major drawcard – it was so, so beautiful. The lace-fine façade draws your eyes up to flying buttresses, leering gargoyles and a 142m spire.
I was wrong. I walked in and was brought to tears. It was spectacular. The cathedral was competed in 1439 and the interior is exquisitely lit by 12th- to 14th-century stained-glass windows, including the western portal’s jewel-like rose window.
At the back, the astronomical clock strikes solar noon at 12.30pm with a parade of figures portraying the different stages of life and Jesus with his apostles.
As I came outside again into the dusk, moved to my core, the façade seemed to glow gold.
From there, we enjoyed the hospitality of a wonderful cafe, serving wine and tarte flambee, a local specialty.
If you are interested in the most relaxing and interesting of getaways, click here for more information on luxury river cruising with Avalon Waterways. There are many options for single traveller, couples or groups of friends interested in exploring together. Don’t miss the special offers available now!