Yes, I *finally* visited Strasbourg! 😀
Basically, I went for les marchés de Noël (Christmas markets), which had just started that weekend. And considering that Strasbourg had been on my bucket list of places to visit, as well as the fact that ticket prices for the Ouibus (an excellent transportation service- definitely recommended!) were super cheap at that time, I knew that I could not miss this incredible opportunity.
Since I was on a super-tight budget for this weekend getaway (less than 150 euros), I knew that I needed to find both cheap transportation and cheap accommodation for my stay. Now, if you know anyone about Strasbourg, you will know that it is not cheap. In fact, it’s a bit on the pricey side, from hotels to meals to everything in between. Considering that the Christmas markets in Strasbourg are one of the most popular tourist destinations for the winter, you can bet that many hotels had already been booked in advance.
That being said, I tried Couchsurfing, a website where travelers can, quite literally, crash on local’s couches for a few nights while backpacking throughout the country. Doesn’t cost anything, and you end up connecting with many people, even becoming friends with them. However, it is incredibly difficult to get a host to accept you, especially if you don’t have any experience with Couchsurfing (like I did). Received many rejections, a couple of “maybes,” but no one who accepted.
I was in a pickle; if I couldn’t get anyone to host me, then I was most likely not going to go to Strasbourg, which would have been very disappointing. But with some *incredible* luck, an assistant reached out to me on Facebook and offered me her place to stay for the weekend. Super glad that that had happened; without any hesitation, I accepted, bought my Ouibus tickets, and was ready to go! 😀
My plan was to spend time in Strasbourg between Saturday and Monday: although I had to teach on Monday, my colleagues allowed me the day off- in return, I would make up the hours missed on another day.
However, in order to get to Strasbourg by Saturday, I needed to pass through Paris on Friday night. I knew another assistant who lived in Paris, and he allowed me to crash for the night in his apartment, before I headed out the following morning to catch my Ouibus to Strasbourg.
Thus began my *extremely long* weekend of travel… 😛
Right after I finished teaching on Friday evening (16h30, to be exact), I booked it to the bus stop to catch the bus to the line’s terminus, where I would need to make a correspondence to Rouen. Waited at the bus stop for twenty-plus minutes- I was panicked, because the bus was late and that there was only a fifteen-minute gap between arriving at the terminus and the corresponding bus afterward; if I missed the bus to Rouen, I was screwed. Again, I did all of this to save money…
Thankfully, the bus arrived (rush-hour, not surprised). Was panicking throughout the entire ride, since people kept getting on and off the bus and that the after-work rush hour was insane. Amazingly, during the last ten minutes of the ride, the bus zoomed all of the way to the terminus without stopping. By some miracle, it arrived just on time; I hopped off the bus and ran to the corresponding line, just as it was about to take off. Never had I felt so relieved in my life- whew!
Arrived in Rouen around 19h20, where I had about thirty minutes before my Ouibus to Paris took off. Got on the bus, then took it all the way to Paris. Arrived in the city around 21h30, where I took the metro to the assistant’s apartment. By the time that I had arrived, it was past 22h20. Met the assistant, who was super nice; turned out that he was hosting a post-Thanksgiving dinner with some of his colleagues, so I joined the gathering after having dropped off my bags, freshened up, and whatnot. Helped myself to Indian take-out (I was starving), as well as some wine. Lots and lots of wine. I must have had about eight or nine flutes of white and red wine, drinking it as I listened to the guests converse philosophy and random topics: seriously, they jumped from the kidnapping situations in Libya to one-week university courses to Game of Thrones. I was too tired to keep up with everything, as well as getting progressively drunk from the wine that I was consuming. I mean, I was still functioning, but definitely crashed once I turned in past midnight. The assistant was nice enough to offer me the extra bedroom to stay in for the night, which I was super grateful for.
Woke up the next morning to catch the Ouibus to Strasbourg. Said goodbye to the assistant (as well as thanking him, of course), then took the metro to the meeting spot for boarding the bus. Left Paris, and spent the next six-plus hours traveling to Strasbourg. Thankfully, the bus was equipped with Wifi and a bathroom, so that was a plus!!
Arrived in Strasbourg in the evening, a bit past 17h00, where I met up with the assistant who I was staying with. Immediately after getting off the bus, I was impressed with the city itself, which was decked out in holiday decorations and everything. Seriously, it was Christmas on steroids. 😛
Walked with the assistant (let’s call her “Lacie”) to her apartment, which was in the heart of the city, next to Place Kléber, where the great Christmas tree was. Considering that it was evening when I had arrived, the streets had already lit up their gorgeous adornments. It was serious magic:
Met Lacie’s roommates (both French), as well as another assistant who had stayed the night in Lacie’s flat, and was leaving that night. The three of us ended up going out that night for dinner; I was itching to try Alsatian food, so we went to a restaurant that served it! Basically, Alsatian cuisine is heavily influenced by German cuisine, thereby having plenty of meat (especially wurst), sauerkraut, and beer. I decided to go all-out and try the choucroute alsacienne, which is basically meat and sauerkraut, as well as a Picon beer on the side. Although the portions weren’t too big, the meal was surprisingly heavy. Not bad for 20 euros…
Afterwards, we wandered around the Christmas markets, which were just about to close, but still saw some really neat items, from traditional holiday ornaments to gingerbread pastries to hot wine. Really lovely. ❤
Had to send off the other assistant at the train station, and afterwards Lacie showed me the iconic Christmas tree in the center of the city. Super huge, and just…fantastic.
Returned to her apartment, where I, super tired, just brushed my teeth and freshened my face before turning in for the night. First day in Strasbourg, and I was spent (then again, I had been out and about traveling since the morning).
Part Two to come tomorrow; stay tuned! 🙂
— The Finicky Cynic
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