Wednesday, January 19, 2011

La Vie En Rose: New Year in Europe

Apologies for the delay in getting this up! We had the most magnificent time in France and Italy over the New Year, but with no internet there and spotty internet at home, it took me a long time to get my act together. I'll be posting my ramblings, mostly written there, day-by-day. Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, December 27, 2010: Strasbourg, France
We were lucky enough to be on one of the priority flights out of JFK on Sunday night, so we left despite the blizzard conditions and massive cancellations in New York. We sat on the tarmac for about two hours while they deiced the plane, which the pilot said was the longest wait he’s ever had for deicing, and finally took off around 6:30pm. There was a lot of turbulence until we got past Nova Scotia, I was sitting behind a really obnoxious frat boy who insisted on bouncing in his seat and singing, and I only got a few hours sleep, but Roger and I survived our very first plane ride together,* and even made our connecting flight in Amsterdam. That flight was also delayed a little, and the plane was very tiny, but we arrived safely in Strasbourg around noon.
There’s snow everywhere, and it seems that Strasbourg doesn’t use salt to melt it, so everything is really beautiful and white, though it’s been a little treacherous getting about on the blocks of solid ice and in the slush. But, everyone else makes do and so do we.
We wandered around the city for most of the day, which was lovely. The streets are quiet and mostly free of cars, and there are a variety of squares that are filled with beautiful Alsatian buildings. The Christmas markets, a Strasbourg tradition since 1570, were the main reason I wanted to come, and they were wonderful, and scattered throughout the Old City, which was decorated with lights and evergreen (and, in one alleyway, chandeliers, which was incredible). We had more trouble with the Strasbourg maps than we usually do, so mostly we just stumbled around and found our way to each. Roger and I shared a delicious glass of vin chaud, a warmed Bordeaux sweetened with fruit, and a beignet chocolat, a sugar doughnut with hot chocolate filling, as a snack while we wandered around, looking at ornaments, candles, and other crafts. I, of course, bought a few Santa ornaments (one on skis, and one on ice skates), but couldn’t find one that really said “Strasbourg” or “Alsace” at first.

After I forced us to go back to the hotel and changed into my hiking boots (in case you didn’t already know, slush + Uggs = disaster. Also, France + Uggs = tourist, though that’s much less foremost in my mind), we toured the impressive Strasbourg Cathedral. I’m really interested in the places where cultures intersect, so Alsace, with its German and French influences, has been really interesting to me. The cathedral is huge and cold, with colorful stained glass windows, an enormous astronomical clock, and a really lovely nativity set up inside. We sat and rested and took in the enormity of the building for a bit before heading back outside to wander around in the snow.

We walked along the Saint Thomas River for a little bit (the Old City is basically an island), stopped into a cafĂ© for some hot chocolate and coffee, and finally stumbled upon the Christkindlemart, the biggest of the markets, as we were getting ready to go back to the hotel before dinner. There, I did find my “Strasbourg” ornaments, two porcelain children in traditional dress, and we had a Bretzel aux Lardon, with melted cheese and ham on top of a soft pretzel. It was absolutely delicious and absolutely ruined our appetites. We looked over some restaurants (all of which are decorated in the most beautiful way), and considered our options for dinner as we headed back.

Since we weren’t hungry anymore, and it was only 5pm, we decided to take a quick nap. Unfortunately, the quick nap turned into a full sleep, and we both woke up at 11:30pm, missing dinner. Roger somehow managed to find Law and Order dubbed into French (AKA: New York Police Judicial), and he fell back to sleep pretty easily while I wrote and uploaded some photos.

*Somehow, despite dating for 6.5 years and vacationing together on 3 different continents, this truly was the first time we've been on a plane together. See? A trip of wonderful togetherness.

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