Our final day in Strasbourg started in the most perfect way – by sleeping in until 9a.m. What a luxury. My skin was also super soft and lovely after our Sephora face masks of the night before. We packed up all of our bags and wine, making sure to carefully bubble wrap each bottle of goodness and checked out of the Mercure Strasbourg Centre. They even gifted us some kougelhopf truffles which we ate on our way to breakfast and were utterly delicious.
We decided to opt for a breakfast place on the way to our first sight of the day, Strasbourg’s famous cathedral and so after some googling came across Dreher Maitre Artisan which seemed nice and so headed for there. The shop itself looked great, however, the queue was quite an experience with numerous people deciding that wasn’t for them and just standing in front of you. I decided to go for a traditional mini Kougelhopf – a sort of bread in the shape of a jelly stuffed with fruit and dusted with icing sugar. It was a bit like a brioche scone. Given our lie-in we decided heading straight to the Cathedral was sensible and so ate our wears en-route.
We had spent a lot of time at the Cathedral on the Friday and so knew exactly where to go to join the inevitable queue. However, what we weren’t expecting was a leaflet from a lady stating the songs being sung and the fact that if we entered the building we had to stay for the entire service. It was a Sunday after all, why didn’t we think of this? It was a tough call as we weren’t sure we would fit it in later and it was one of the most famous sights in the city but finally our lunch reservations which were at the time the service finished and a bit of a walk away clinched it – food will always win out for me. So we now had the dilemma of what to do before lunch. There was a tourist information right next to the Cathedral in the main square and so we decided to ask them for suggestions of which they had many. Finally we decided on visiting Palais Rohan just across the square.
The Palais has been made into a museum of 3 collections; fine art, archaeology and decorative arts. Our options were €6.50 for one of the museums or buying a combined ticket to visit them all. We didn’t have a lot of time so just decided on decorative arts. I was a bit worried this might just be a bunch of nice vases etc in glass cases which would have been tedious but fortunately, the entire first floor of the Palace had been preserved as it would have been during the occupation of the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was built in 1730 and is the former residence of the prince-bishops and cardinals of the house of Rohan, a French noble family originally from Brittany. We started in a large hall which would have been perfect for hosting balls which had some wonderfully detailed columns. It was a masterpiece in French Baroque architecture. We wandered through seeing dining room, bedrooms and epic library. It reminded me a lot of the palaces of Austria with the grand gold gilt cornicing and even a marble chapel. After one side of the palace you had the option to explore the glass cabinets of stuff that I had fearer from fine china to cutlery. Despite my protestations there was actually an interesting rooms with clocks and a massive original astronomical clock which was really cool. The rooms on the second side of the palace were smaller however, hosted famous faces including Napoleon! The museum was great and in hindsight I am glad we had the chance to go and learn a little about the city.
We didn’t have too much time and so headed to our lunch stop Au Crocodile, with a mulled wine stop en-route at yet another Christmas Market we hadn’t seen before. This was the restaurant I was most looking forward to given our mishaps with previous bookings over the weekend. Strasbourg has a lot of Michelin restaurants for a relatively small city and we were finally getting the chance to sample one. We were the first diners of the day to arrive pretty much rocking up on the dot at opening time. The outside was decorated in true Strasbourg style, with 3D excellence and their tree was stunning. We were sat right towards the back of the room under an enormous tapestry. We ordered some champagne as an aperitif while we perused the menus which the friendly staff translated perfectly for us. We decided on the ala carte menu however, there were tasting menus that would probably have been better value at €88 and €120 which were for 4/5 courses. They were quite seafood heavy and given Nicola’s disinclination to seafood the ala carte was a safer world. Even from this menu there was only one starter that wasn’t seafood. We ordered our dishes and decided on the matched wine pairing where the sommelier picks a wine that best matches the dish you have ordered. Our first amuse bouche arrived and was a trio of mini starters; trout and sauerkraut maki (I got to have 2 of these, see above), butternut squash soup and a little duck with sweet sauce canape. A fantastic start to the meal. They then brought our second amuse bouche styled on the traditional tarte flambee from the region. It was a frothy and creamy cheese soup with an egg base and some potato sticks – utterly delicious.
We hadn’t even started our ordered courses yet and so the sommelier arrived with an Emile Beyer Riesling for me (from the same winery we had visited in Eguisheim yesterday). Fortunately for me I hadn’t been able to try their Riesling’s as they had been completely sold out so this was a treat. This was matched with a scallop, potato and turnip veloute which was utter perfection. The mineral features of the wine perfectly matched the hearty vegetables and cut through the creamy veloute sauce bringing out the sweetness of the scallops. Even writing this a week later I am salivating, they were the best scallops I have eaten in my life (and I have eaten a lot of scallops). Nicola had the foie gras and despite being the same dish as the night before the execution and taste were quite different indeed. After the wonderment of the starter it was on to the main show; and to match with it I had a white chateauneuf du pape which was wonderfully creamy with a lot of vanilla and oaky Chardonnay coming through. Again this went perfectly with my john dory fillet on a truffle risotto with a champagne sauce. All of my favourite things on a plate this was a utter extravagance I think I may never experience again. Nicola’s sweetbreads were also phenomenal ensuring the best meal of the trip hands down, and it wasn’t even over yet. Our final course was a piece of art – I went for the passionfruit ice cake with edible silver and Nicola had the traditional black forest gateau done in a smooth mousse form with hard dark chocolate. Both were served with a sticky and sweet French desert wine from South West France and being high in muscadelle. You could tell the old vintage by the dark coloration of the wine and of course it matched perfectly with my light fruity desert. We just had a gingerbread with Chantilly cream and orange to enjoy before it was all over. What a meal indeed! Au Crocodile strides right to the top 5 of my favourite restaurants in the world.
Feeling oh so full and satisfied we made our way back to the Cathedral to catch a glimpse inside. It was beautiful but unfortunately the access to the rooftop is closed during the Christmas season so after a wander round and lighting some candles we headed out and back to the hotel, picking up some last minute souvenirs on the way. We were flying back directly from Strasbourg via Amsterdam and so after getting our luggage from the hotel we made our way to the train station for the final time. We arrived at the tiny airport with lots of time to spare, checked our luggage and boarded our tiny 3 seats per aisle plane to Amsterdam. We had some time to kill here and so opted to sit in the garden area where there is birdsong and the smell of freshly cut grass. We were right next to our gate so we waited until the last minute to head along to miss the queues only to realise, actually I had mis-read the sign and this was D65-79 and not D55 where we wanted to be. Staying calm we headed down the stairs following the signs for our gate. We reached a passport control stop and the panic started to rise, it was final call on the gate and after rushing through the security gate we were a lot of gates away. So I started to run, I run quite regularly (although generally not in boots and with a handbag and laptop case) but my pacing suffered by me not realising just how far away we actually were. I had to leave Nicola behind and as I rounded the corner I caught sight of the airline crew watching for us and so I went into sprint mode (channelling my inner gazelle) to make the last section. The crew looked baffled and after a few, you are so lucky, we were about to close the doors we boarded our final flight of the trip. A trip not without drama, disasters and things just not working out to plan, but of overcoming the drama and finding better alternatives. It will always be remembered for our favourite Christmas markets yet and of course the wonderful Alsatian food and wine, I will definitely be returning soon.