Thursday, March 4, 2010

We stole away to France!

As many of you know, I spent two years living in Stuttgart in the 1990s.  Thus, revisiting my old favorites always factors into a trip here.  That's why I had to truck the kids the 90 miles to Strasbourg, France yesterday.  After the 13 hours in the car on Sunday, I had the decency to wait until Wednesday to attempt it!
We got a late start and relied on our TomTom to get there.  It, in the guise of our favorite guide, Bulldog John, took us on an inconvenient route with felicitous results. But more on that later!

We arrived famished and navigated the ponderous minivan to an underground parking space in a garage. Three kids with roaring appetites didn't allow for much meandering to choose a restaurant . . . but the brasserie we happened into had a great menu and a debonair African waiter who spoke terrific English and was very solicitous of Lily and her doll Felicity (bringing her a separate plate, even).  Quinn and Lily went for steak and pommes frittes from the Enfant Menu while Emily had her favorite Alsatian dish: onion soup.  I chose the mussels (with a side of pommes frites to share with Em) which came in a very generous portion as you can see. 

Then we set off through the pedestrian center of Strasbourg where I cast only a few longing looks into the windows of Printemps and Galleries Lafayette. Buffeted by some sharp March winds, we marched toward the cathedral spires. 

 Strasbourg Cathedral is a Gothic masterpiece that overwhelms with both size and ornamentation.  Indeed, it was the world's tallest building for a few centuries and can be spotted from quite a distance as you approach the city. But it's the sculpture and spires that make it such an engrossing  sight, as this photo of just two of the many holy figures (perched on who knows what lesser entities) reveals. Because the cathedral is so tightly pocketed into the buildings of Strasbourg, it's hard to convey its mammoth dimensions.

Once inside, the stained glass windows or illuminations transfix.  The apse holds an illumination of the Virgin Mary that is the largest depiction of a single figure I've ever seen in stained glass.  Unfortunately, all my photos were too dark to provide an image here. But here is one shot of the nave's two tiers of illuminations -- the best I got with my less-than-wonderful photographic skills. Apparently, all the  windows were removed and stored in a salt mine in Germany during WWII. 

After viewing the cathedral, we chose to explore the streets, happening upon a little antique street market with high priced tidbits, spending a little time in the Petite Bateaux shop to purchase some iconic stripy shirts, and wandering along the Ill river. We enjoyed comparing the many half-timbered buildings, some listing, some bulging, all picturesque, especially those ornamented with carved figures and decorative painting.  

A look at my watch meant there was time for an unplanned Alsatian treat: a visit to Soufflenheim! The circuitous route our Tomtom had set on the way to Strasbourg took us right past the Soufflenheim exit and all my fond memories (and ceramic greed) were flamed by that serendipity!  For those who love ceramics, pottery, crockery . . . I encourage you to make a pilgrimage
A last shot with the sun in their eyes in Strasbourg.

After we parked, we found ourselves before this delightful driveway mosaic.  Unfortunately, the chow hound within the gate was not so happy to see us and nipped Quinn.  Fortunately, no blood was drawn.  Despite the less than auspicious welcome, the kids were willing to follow me into shop after repetitive shop to look at pottery -- up to a point.  You may have noticed the storks in the mosaic.  They return to Alsace every year to build their nests, often on chimney stacks.  They are a local symbol of happiness and faithfulness.  I felt like a stork returning!
I came away with a couple of samples to join the ones I have from the 1990s (that look amazingly similar).  I bought a little loaf-shaped crock for making pate and a couple of bowls to replace the casualties of our unforgiving Neapolitan tile floors.  I also picked up the recipe for kougelhopf to make in the fluted pottery molds that are a regional specialty.  Let's just say it's the original bundt cake.  My 12-year-old mold hasn't had its kougelhopf moment yet.  I'll be correcting that upon our return to Naples.

We tried to find a cafe for a treat before returning to Germany, but looking at the time decided to skidaddle for our digs in Stuttgart.  Tired, hungry kids inspired us to pick up a doner kebab feast to eat in our rooms before the TV.  Nothing satiates like a good doner kebab sandwich! Off to Stuttgart's Wilhelmina zoo and Esslingen today! 

1 comment:

Roxanne, Jason, Seamus and Leila said...

I loved this post! I miss traveling in Europe and we have never been to the Alsatian region, from which my Eberle descendants originated. I felt like I was right there with you, the kids, and Felicity (my all time favorite American Girl!).