Monday, October 20, 2014

Snails and Frog Legs? Only in France!

What's better than eating a fresh baguette for breakfast? Doing it in France! 

My friend Sarah and I took a short trip to Strasbourg, France, during the first few days of our mid-semester break. I've been to France once before, when my dad and I drove into the countryside for dinner during our European vacation three years ago. But since I only ventured a few miles into France, and since I didn't see much besides flat land, I wanted to visit again while abroad. Lucky for me, Sarah was just as enthusiastic about visiting the land of baguettes and berets. Obviously we had our eye on Paris, but the City of Love was just too far (and too expensive!) for a quick trip. We decided instead on Strasbourg, a cute town close to the German border that houses the European 

On Thursday night, Sarah and I took a 7-hour train ride from Berlin to Strasbourg. Of course we got lost trying to find our hotel. At midnight. In a foreign country. In the rain. I even had to use some of my very limited, very precious iPhone data to access my maps. The whole experience was more funny than annoying though, especially since Strasbourg was surprisingly safe and pretty even in the middle of the night. 

Sarah and I were determined to eat nothing but French food during our trip, so the next morning we ventured to a cute cafe for croissants and cappuccinos. I'm a huge croissant fan, and the ones we bought at the cafe were seriously the best I've ever had. Think flaky on the outside and moist on the inside... my mouth is watering just thinking about it! 

We spent the rest of the morning exploring Le Petite France, a collection of adorable old houses lining a river. The striped buildings and cobblestone streets looked characteristically German, which makes sense considering Strasbourg's close proximity to the German border. The many bridges crossing the river were prime spots for taking pictures, so Sarah and I got some pretty impressive shots. 

After we were charmed to the brim by La Petite France, we wandered down the winding streets of Strasbourg to the other attractions, popping into countless cute shops and bakeries along the way. Every single bakery offered us free macarons, so naturally we loaded our bellies with sugar and sweets at 10 a.m.. Who can ever pass up free French macarons?! For lunch, we sat in an outdoor cafe and ordered escargot and French onion soup. Not surprisingly, the meal was amazing. I've come to the conclusion that French food can't be anything but delicious.

Next on the itinerary was the beautiful Gothic-style Strasbourg Cathedral. We paid a couple of Euros to climb 330 stairs to a platform at the top of the cathedral. Although we were winded and tired after the climb, we still enjoyed the expansive view of Strasbourg below us. The cathedral's spire used to be the tallest structure in the world until 1874... so I guess, out of context, I can say I climbed the world's tallest building!

As an afternoon treat, Sarah and I got delicious Nutella crepes, which were far more dough-y than any crepe I've eaten in America. We also visited the "Oeuvre Notre-Dame" museum for medieval and Renaissance art and walked around the streets until our feet hurt.

For dinner, we scoured the menu of every restaurant until we found one that seemed "French" enough. I got a three-course meal with a baguettes, a cheese plate, "mixed grill" (duck and chicken), and creme brûlée for 20 Euro, which really isn't bad for France! The creme brûlée was delicious, but it wasn't crunchy on top like the creme brûlée in America. Sarah got frog legs, since "eating frog legs in France" has been on her bucket list since she was nine. The legs certainly looked disgusting, but they actually tasted like chicken covered in butter and garlic. Yum! We finished with dinner at 8:30 p.m., and since nothing else was open in the quiet city, we enjoyed a glass of local wine from an outdoor cafe. I still feel very grown-up whenever I order wine at a restaurant!

The next morning, we went to yet another cafe and ordered a "typical French breakfast" of baguettes with butter and jam, coffee, and orange juice. I can't explain it, but the bread in France is truly better than bread in America. French people know the importance of a crunchy bread crust! Although I could have bread and coffee every day, I didn't like how the French breakfast lacked protein. I tend to get a little hangry without protein in the morning! 

A little more than 30 hours after arriving in France, Sarah and I headed back to the train station for our return journey. Unfortunately, the Deutsche Bahn (German rail system) was on strike and our train was cancelled. We had to take a later train that was way too crowded. Nonetheless, we made it back to Berlin before midnight. Sarah and I were only in France for one full day, but I had lots of fun. I'm glad we decided on Strasbourg instead of Paris. I feel like I'll end up visiting Paris in the future, but I doubt I'll have the opportunity to visit Strasbourg again. One of my goals while studying abroad is to see things that I wouldn't normally have the chance to see, and I think Strasbourg fits under that category!