Day 13 – Nov 23, 2015 Strasbourg, France • Boat tour • Optional Alsatian Highlights tour Early this morning, we dock in Strasbourg, France. This morning you can enjoy a sightseeing tour by boat along Strasbourg’s canals. Strasbourg has been strategically important since ancient times. It became a free imperial city of the German Empire in 1262, and then was occupied by France in 1681 and Germany in 1871. France recovered the city in 1919 after World War I. From your boat, you’ll see the major sights (including the Palais de L’Europe where the European Parliament meets) and admire the city’s remarkable Renaissance architecture. Your boat tour concludes in the town center at the Palais Rohan, which you may choose to visit during your free time. Palais Rohan, often called the “mini-Versailles,” houses a gallery and three museums: an archaeological museum, a museum of the decorative arts, and a collection of European paintings. If you like, you may walk on your own from the Palais to visit the city’s magnificent cathedral, one of the finest of Europe’s great Gothic cathedrals, whose lofty single spire dominates the city. You’ll then have free time to make your own discoveries around Strasbourg, where you perhaps you can use your included public transportation pass to explore more of the city on your own before enjoying a tram ride back to your ship. After lunch, join an optional our optional Alsatian Highlights excursion through the famous wine region of Alsace, where the culture is a delightful blend of French and German influences. Travel through the fertile Elsass region to the wooded foothills of the Vosges Mountains and drive parts of the Route de Vin, the Alsatian Wine Road, past rolling vineyards and flower-decked villages. You’ll visit the Stork Park, where this lovely white bird is being repopulated into the local area. At one time, the bird was so plentiful in this region that it was considered the symbol of Alsace and was often mentioned in children’s stories. In 1900, thousands of storks could be spotted in Alsace during the warmer spring and summer months, but by the 1980s their local population had been reduced to fewer than ten. Their numbers are again increasing, and the Stork Park offers a safe refuge for this long-legged bird. On your route, you might even spot some of their nests, high atop a local home or a church roof. Then, enjoy an info stroll through the quaint town of Riquewihr to discover its main points of interest. You may wish to explore the town’s medieval fortress, city gates, and towers. If shopping is your interest, you’ll find that the shops on the main street are cozy and inviting year-round. This evening, transfer back to Strasbourg and enjoy dinner onboard your ship.
These two days are rolled into one as explained below. You will perhaps note that 23-Nov is scheduled for Strasbourg and 24-Nov is scheduled for Baden-Baden. Patricia and I elected to not do the Baden-Baden tour as we have been there before and did not feel we wanted to revisit it so we visited Strasbourg again today.
So what about Strasbourg? We got in sometime early on the morning of 23 Nov. After breakfast we headed into town (really a city). We went with our guide to have a guided tour of the main part of town. The first stop was the huge cathedral here, which is the third highest in the world. As you read the references above you will see that it was constructed over a period of several hundred years. Beautiful detailed carvings, flying buttresses, big organ, 362 steps to the top for viewing and more. They are in the plaza, and other plazas, setting up for the Christmas Markets which will open here on 27 Dec. After giving us time at the cathedral we then had a boat tour of the city. The main part of Strasbourg was built on an island originally. Now of course with a population of several hundred thousand it has expended far beyond the island. We spent all of time on the island, the old city. The boat tour travels around the island to see various sights, guild houses, tannery, admin offices, etc. These old buildings are now used for other purposes. The city was damaged during WWII but has been rebuilt to the original state, least wise in the old city. The parliament for the EU meets here.
The ship had, for entertainment tonight, the crew performing for the passengers. Was quite a hoot and very enjoyable.
The next day (24 Nov – Tuesday/today) we did not go to Baden-Baden as the rest of the passengers did as we were there this past year. We found it to be okay but not worth a trip back. So we stayed here and went back into the city to a museum that had a special display of Strasbourg from 1200-1230. Not only this display but also of other periods in the life of Strasbourg. Was really quite good and interesting from the building of the cathedral, to making stained glass windows, to trade, sculpture. Definitely worthwhile. Then, of course back to the ship and sailed at 1:30PM for our final destination – Basel.
Supper this evening was the Captain’s dinner complete with about six courses, filet mignon (or however you spell it), baked Alaska. The Captain recognized the crew presented a few awards had a toast and ate. Had a briefing for debarkation on Thursday and that was it.