Monday, January 12, 2009

Cruising on the River Ill

Once we had concluded our two hour open mouthed walk through the Cathedral de Notre Dame du Strasbourg, we headed for the River Ill for a cruise around the Grand Ile. This island right in the centre of Strasbourg is the site of the old city where we have been staying. It is held lovingly in the arms of the River Ill and crossed by a multitude of bridges.

The tour takes us up one arm of the river, into a small branch arm through a lock and out the other end and then up to the junction with the Rhine River before we turn around and travel back to our departure point via the other arm of the River Ill.

The boat is flat bottomed and encased in a glass canopy that shields us from the cooling afternoon weather and the commentary is provided (in 12 languages) through individual headphones. Very comfortable. We manage to get another whole set of photograps through the glass canopy, so please excuse the struts and poorer quality of some of them!

Michael is learning how easy it is to take so many photos. Now he understands how in 2006 I managed to take 8700 photos in 6 weeks. We haven't counted just how many we have taken this far, but it is heaps!!

The cruise highlights include:
* examples of architecture that reflect the influences of the history of Strasbourg including particularly French and Germanic;
* modern buildings that usually (though not always) sits sympathetically beside much older ones and the signs of everyday life - water discharging from the sewer system, grafitti done by those willing to be water bound;
* the area known as Petite France where the working class conducted their business - where thriving printing and clothing industries once flourished;
* the lock system that allows river trade to navigate the difference of 1.8 m in heights of the water course;
* the old tanners house - one of the most photographed buildings in Strasbourg today;
* the towers of the covered bridges - while these no longer support their covers that provided shelter for those defending the city (but more importantly for the gunpowder they used) are no longer in place, these towers are still very impressive!;
* The Prostetant churches of St-Pierre-le-Jeune and St-Thomas;
* By stark contrast, the modern conglomerate of buildings that house the European Parliament that is sitting this week and all its associated entourage; and
* Water birds swimming on the (very cold) River Ill oblivious to the tourist gaze.

We return to the dock at dusk in a growing chilly air. A hot chocolate is in order on the way back to the Hotel Cathedrale where we spend 20 minutes uploading the photos of today and rest before heading our to dinner.

The concierge this morning suggested that we speak with Pierre (on the desk now) and get his recommendation for dinner. We ask for somewhere typically Alsacian. He recommends Chez Yvonne - less than 5 minutes walk from here.

When we open the door, it is like stepping back in time. Heavy tapestry drapes cover the walls and dark sculptures grace all the ledges. We are taken through to the Salon le Sanglier named for the bronze statue of a wild boar. Our young waitress is very attentive and before we can ask, has given us menus with English translations next to the French descriptions. If only all the cafe and restaurant staff were as attentive and pleasant ;). The food all looks so iteresting and it is difficult to choose.
We settle on:
Feuilleté de Munster, choucroute au kirsch (Puff pastry stuffed with Munster Cheese, garnished with kirsch flavoured sauerkraut) Michael
Saumon fumé par nos soins, toasts (Home Smoked Salmon and Toasts) Maria
Quenelles de foie, pommes sautées, salade verte (Liver dumplings, green salad and sautéed potatoes) Michael
Cochon de lait farci, pommes sautées (Stuffed Piglet, sautéed potatoes and salad) Maria
Framboise nature sorbet (Raspberry sorbet) Michael

Afterwards, we return to the hotel. We are now finishing dinner between 9:30 and 10 pm and the night has trly settled in to the cold. Tonight there is a stiff wind whipping up the odd piece of litter in the square. I am glad to be back indoors but Michael decides another smoke and just a few more photos are in order!

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