Saturday 15 May 2010
May 13, 2010
Strasbourg means “city of the roads,” and it is aptly named. Located just a few miles from the Rhine River, it has historically been an important transportation artery. It is also where Gutenberg perfected the printing press in 1444. This northeastern city is now home to the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, and the European Court of Human Rights.
Manuela and left the rainy weather in the Loire Valley Wednesday morning (May 12). It was much warmer and nearly sunny when we arrived in Strasbourg. Getting there was a bit of a challenge. There are four or five main train stations in Paris. If you are going north, you depart from Gare du Nord (north station). When traveling east, you leave from Gare de l’Est (east station).
If you are traveling from south of Paris and heading east, you arrive at Gare d’Austerlitz, take the Metro across town, and catch a train departing from Gare de l’Est. And you hope that your train doesn’t arrive late or that there isn’t one of the frequent Metro strikes so you can make the 40 minute cross-town connection.
Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg
Strasbourg has been described as France’s great northeastern metropolis. After getting settled at hostel, we wandered around the city’s centuries old center. Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg rises 465 feet high in the center of town. Besides the towering bells, this church, begun in 1214 has an astrological clock built in the late 16th century.
I never learned what our hostel’s acronym name stood for, but C.I.A.R.U.S. was large, modern, and clean. Just as advertised in the travel guide, the rooms were furnished with industrial grade furniture. Fortunately we did not have a roommate in our three bed room – only a curtain separated the shower from the bedroom. Mostly importantly though, the room was heated! C.I.A.R.U.S. is somehow connected with the YMCA.
We woke up to more rain Thursday morning (May 13). We didn’t realize it was a Catholic holiday until we waited in the rain for a laundry to open (it never did and I had to tote a bag of dirty clothes all around Strasbourg). The banks were also closed, so I could not change my dollars; our Euros were dwindling. After looking at train fares to Normandy, which were very expensive, we decided to return to Paris Friday morning (May 14). Little did we know that it would be difficult finding accommodations in the capital on a Friday night.
Ill River, Strasbourg
There are many museums in Strasbourg, but Manuela and I decided to visit only the Musée Historique and a chocolate museum. The former was an interesting exhibit on the history of Strasbourg going back many centuries. Because of it’s location near the Rhine River, Strasbourg has been an important military and trading center. The audio exhibit was very informative and we got to try on old helmets.
After the Musée Historique, we took a tram to a bus stop on the outskirts of Strasbourg. From there we intended to take a bus to the chocolate museum, but it was nearly closing time by the time we reached the bus stop. Instead we rode the tram to the European Parliament at the other terminus. The Parliament and nearby European Court of Human Rights were closed because of the holidays, but it was worth the tram ride to see the modern architecture.
European Parliament, Strasbourg
Both of us were tired of the cold and rain, so we spent the evening in our hostel room searching for a hostel or hotel in Paris. It took quite some time and we had to settle for slightly expensive room in the Montparnasse district. There are still several things on our Paris to-do list – stroll along the Seine, visit the Victor Hugo museum, and see a cemetery or two.
Jusqu'à ce que nous sommes à Paris!