Today we woke up at 9:30 to go shopping and sight-seeing in Strasbourg which is 1.5 hour drive from Damelevières and home to the famous astronomical clock. Since it is located on the border to Germany, the city has an infused culture of French and German where they also speak a special infused language called Alsatian.
For breakfast I had my first crossaint of the trip and it was filled with chocolat noir. C’est délicieux! Nath’s mother poured me coffee in the biggest mug I’ve ever seen and I was delighted to drink it all. I also tried my first french raw cheese that came from Nancy. I also ate a piece of bread made with flaxseed in the center and with homemade jam made from the mirabelle plum/prune which is native to their area and is delicious.
In Strasbourg we walked around looking at the beautiful architecture while the wind ripped our faces apart. It was so cold that we decided to go straight to lunch at a winstub, or a german pub/wine cellar that serves typical food from the region. Nathalie and I ordered 2 things and split them. We also ordered some delicious white wine — a pinot blanc. I ordered the choucroute garnie (which looks like a plate of animal penises) and Nathalie ordered rognon (kidney) with spätzle (potato pasta). They were both delicious though I probably couldn’t eat kidney all of the time. They had a bowl of strong yellow mustard on the table so I made sure to put that on everything to give it that zingy pop that I love.
After lunch we walked to the giant cathedral and went inside. It was enormous and it had beautiful stained glass windows and was where the astronomical clock was housed. We didn’t get to see the clock in action because it only goes off once a day at noon and you have to pay 2 euros to watch it happen. In one part of the cathedral they had this giant drain-like cover in the floor and if you looked down into it you could see that a shit-ton of people had thrown coins and bills down there. What a waste of money.
We walked from shop to shop trying on clothes and admiring things we couldn’t afford (like Svarski crystal). I’m in the market for a simple long black vest (to hide my belly’s pride of food). I didn’t find anything that fit and flattered my figure (or my budget) so I just bought some souvenir postcards and helped Nathalie shop. I really enjoyed walking around Strasbourg even though the weather was beating me down. The town is so quaint and cute and everything is perfect. Our last stop before we headed back to Damelevières was a shop that sold espresso machines and gourmet espresso “pods” like Tassimo sells coffee pods in the US. The company was called “Nespresso”. I was amazed at how elegant the store was and how I wished the US had Nespresso stores available. There were a bajillion flavors lining the walls and they even sold chilled chocolate and told you what coffee paired well with each chocolate. I was in heaven. Their most recent commercial features John Malkovich and George Clooney but old Georgie boy has been their main guy for all of their commercials.
It started snowing heavier later in the day so our trip back in the car lasted 3 hours instead of 1.5 I slept for most of the ride. At one point Nathalie pointed out a huge line of trucks that had parked in the left lane of the highway on the opposite side. She told me that they are required to stop driving when the weather is bad but she didn’t understand why they took up one lane of traffic, especially the inside lane. And this line of trucks was super long. It was pretty crazy.
When we got to the house Nathalie’s father had prepared a traditional meal called Raclette which is kind of similar to fondue except you cook slices of cheese on a hot plate and then pour it over boiled potatoes. You can also cook bacon in with the cheese which of course I was delighted was an option. There are other various cold cuts and salamis on the table while you are waiting for your cheese to heat up. Aside from the raclette there was an endive salad with walnuts and a vinagrette dressing. I had never tried endive before and now I am in love. For dessert her father made banana flambé with vanilla ice cream and bergamont sweet crackers. So far I have not had a single disappointing or half-assed meal. How did I get so lucky? I’m also supposed to try homemade foie gras as well as snails. Her family likes that I am willing to try any food they put in front of me so they want to make me everything. Again, I’m super lucky. I drank a pinot noir from 1999 that is apparently a big deal among us Yankees. Nath’s parents told me that they used to buy it all the time but then the Americans started buying so much of it that the price skyrocketed and it wasn’t worth it to buy that anymore so they stopped buying it. And the supply to the locals was limited because the company would rather sell it at a jacked up price to the Americans.
After dinner the parents went to bed and me, Nath, her brother and his girlfriend, Oriane watched Inglorious Basterds. They put the movie in English with Subtitles but that didn’t really help me out because half of the movie is in spoken French and German so I didn’t understand what was going on and Nathalie had to translate it for me anyway. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it.
I’m still jet-lagged which I guess is good because I had time to write these posts at 3am…but I’ll probably regret not forcing myself to go to sleep earlier. Oh well, C’est la vie!