We spent the night in the car just over the border of Germany and it was the best night yet. We managed to find a parking lot next to a church and it faced the woods, so we could exit the car without anyone seeing us. Additionally, we were parked underneath a tree (apparently we didn't learn our lesson from the camping parking lot debacle), but apart from the odd falling leaf, we slept pretty undisturbed. The parking lot was in some German village close to the French border and I couldn't recall its name for my life, but it was nice.
Came morning, we bundled up for Strasbourg and the weather, once more, was on our side as it greeted us with bright sunshine and cloudless sky. Driving to Strasbourg didn't take long and parking in Strasbourg is really well thought out as there are many P+R and with most there is a ticket included in the daily fee for one ride in the tram into the city and one out, back to the P+R. We parked at Elsau as it is the only one where cars as high as ours could fit in (I guess the others are park houses). We paid reasonable six Euros for a day ticket, as mentioned the tram tickets included, and headed to the city centre. The tram took about ten minutes in and was so terribly crammed you needn't hold on to any of the poles, as falling over was simply impossible. Also, there was a German school group on the bus and so Nancy remains the only city where we didn't encounter Germans so far. We exited Homme de Fer, which is at the beginning of the main city part any tourist would be interested. We weren't entirely sure where to head first, so we followed the school group, confident they would have a better plan than us. We followed them up to the Place Kléber which honours the General Kléber and it was when we abandoned the school group as we wanted to linger on the place (and I needed to get breakfast from Starbucks. It is a lovely square with a statue in the middle (of said Kléber) and some shops like the Apple Store, Starbucks and Stradivarius which I immediately noted in my head, as I wanted return later to buy the lovely grey and white jumper I had forgone in Amsterdam. The square is lined with old houses but other than that not too fascinating, so we strolled on into the Rue des Grandes Arcades where (apart from, unsurprisingly, arcades) we encountered another array of shops including Mango, Pimkie and Levis, so if you're in a shopping mood, you will be duly rewarded in Strasbourg. After Lush (the shop) we took a turn to the left and soon arrived at the imposing and absolutely stunning Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg which is a Gothic, huge washed out building with innumerable gargoyles baring their teeth and spitting at you. It is a cathedral out of a horror movie, but in a cool way. The stone is ancient and has not been sanded down recently from the looks. The stone is tarnished black which looks like black tears running down the stone, bemoaning long gone times. When walking inside, the grandeur of the place is simply imposing and marvellous. There is a huge organ hanging on one of the sides and another one in the front. Also, the cathedral has an astronomical clock and, unfortunately, there was no time to see how it functioned but we could take a decent look at it and it was absolutely mind-blowing to think that someone came up with such a genius idea one day. I was really in awe. The cathedral features incredibly detailed mosaic windows displaying various scenes from the bible which delves the whole place into a somewhat sinister light. It looked a bit like the set for a Dan Brown novel film, all in all.
In front of the cathedral is a square with little shops, mainly selling Strasbourg tourist items and as neither my man nor I are into "I love Strasbourg" goodies, we meandered through the innumerable little streets spreading out from the square. We wanted to climb the cathedral to the top, but as a school group was queuing, we decided to first explore the city a little further. We nearly got lost in the tight-knit net of streets, but there is plenty to discover. We encountered a little square with restaurants and cafés, but it was far too early for them to be open, still the square with its trees and cobblestone was rather picturesque. There are also many independent shops hidden away in the streets, definitely worth to explore even if you should be ready to spend a decent amount of money.
The great thing about these nets of streets is that, inevitably, you will end up where you started. When we nearly thought we had lost our path entirely, we suddenly found ourselves back at the cathedral, and what was even better, there was no queue for the tower so we waited for the tower guy to return (he was off on a coffee break or something) and in the meantime befriended a lovely Australian lady who is retired and now travels the world. Before we had even set foot inside the cathedral again, we already knew she had two children who had only started to work and loved travelling, too, and her having travelled Europe for various months and heading to Zurich the next day (like us). Australians are really pleasant folks and it was SO lovely to speak English again, so I really blossomed, most likely far too many details of my life, but it was to hear from someone once more that our plans were not entirely bollocks and we had the right to be risky and "unreasonable" in our age.
Anyway, eventually we could climb the tower and I immediately asserted I need more exercise in my life. Halfway up I was close to dying, no kidding. My lungs inhaled but suddenly had problems exhaling, but I didn't want to be overtaken by the Australian lady, who was far older than me after all, and made myself practically run upstairs. It is more than six hundred stairs and they're winding up, so after five minutes of climbing, I couldn't only not breathe anymore but also felt sick from walking in circles. Still, the travel up is really cool because sometimes you have to walk over some sort of balcony, being able to catch first glimpses of the city below you, before having to take on the next set of stupid stairs until you finally (FINALLY!) reach the top viewpoint, only to realise that the actual cathedral tower is still towering over you a decent bit, looking as imposing as ever. But the view...so incredibly stunning and after I had caught my breath (five minutes long), I was in position to fully appreciate it. Well, that is after we had managed the selfies and pictures. Sadly, the weather turned and it started to rain just as we were up there, a freezing wind egging the rain on. But no one could take the view from us and we were up there more than twenty minutes (which included another chat with our newly acquired Australian friend whose name I never learnt).
After the climb we were incredibly hungry and roamed the streets for restaurants and wandered down the Grand Rue where we discovered L'Artichaut, a bar and restaurant in which we had a delicious tarte flambée and my man had a fantastic Quiche Lorraine (so much better than the one in Nancy) and it was decently priced, too! For dessert I had chocolate mousse cake which was so deliciously mellow and sweet I am still dreaming of it. With restaurants it is in Strasbourg as in Nancy, pretty expensive, but L'Artichaut was really a gem.
Strasbourg is really great and I probably preferred it to Nancy a tiniest bit because despite the old houses (and there are so many), the city seems a bit tidier and more cosmopolitan. There are more shops, the cathedral is an absolute bummer and there is so much to explore in the little streets all around the cathedral and the Place Kléber. If you are there, take time, admire the architectural outstandingness and the whole relaxed atmosphere. In France, as indicated, people don't seem to entirely wake up until early afternoon. In the morning, you will hardly find anyone in the streets apart from some stray tourists, but come again later in the day and the streets are bustling with shoppers, people enjoying coffee and tourists likewise. It is fantastic. We ended our Strasbourg tour with a trip to Stradivarius where, after long back and forth), I bought the grey and white jumper I hadn't bought in Amsterdam and a little lantern in a crammed gift and Christmas shop which was in one of these beautiful old houses where no floor is even and the windows cannot really shield from the wind outside, but has so much character you never want to leave again. It was fortunate the shop was just a corner further from the cathedral, so our last glance at Strasbourg was the gigantic cathedral bidding us farewell with her sombre, melancholic look.