Wed 27 Nov - Strasbourg, France

Going European...

Hans went out at daybreak 7.30am or so to see if he could capture the early morning light and the frost in a few photo frames. This is Place de la Gare opposite Strasbourg's main railway station.

And this is looking towards the exit of the train station, with presumably workers arriving for a day in the office and students for a day of more education.

Hans wandered around in the vicinity around our hotel but unfortunately, he went out a bit too late and wasn't really able to capture much of that early morning light. However, it was a foggy morning and the rivier Ill still looked good.

Our breakfast was a repeat from yesterday, with a baguette from across the street and tea at McDonalds where we consumed the lot.

Today's main goal was to visit the European Parliament which is a few kilometers northeast outside of Strasbourg's city centre. We would normally walk there, but given the cold weather and slippery conditions, we took the E-tram to Wacken station from where there is a further short stroll to the next station on a different tram line which supports the parliament. Yep, it was a cold and crispy morning.

The European Parliament is housed in the Louise Weiss Building in the Wacken district of Strasbourg.

Louise Weiss was a Member of the European Parliament and the building that bears her name called so in her memory and inaugurated in 1999. It was designed by Architect Studio and is a huge building, covering 220,000 square metres of floor space, making it one of the biggest buildings in Europe.

The building’s tower is 60 metres high and is actually finished – the half completed look with the open west side, is done on purpose to represent the unfinished work of reuniting the Europe.

A "selfie" seemed appropriate here although only one of us is presently an European citizen, but hopefully that will change soon as dual citizenships seem more achievable these days.

As the text underneath the sculpture says, this is Europe a Couer, the symbol of the European Union. Yep, it looked familiar...

Outside the European Parliament are two lines of flagpoles presumably with all the member states' flags up there.

The Swedish flag, together with the British, were closest to the building. Not sure whether that meant anything...probably alphabetical.

The building comprises 18 assembly rooms, 1133 offices and the famous Hemicircle, so reminiscent of a Roman amphitheatre. It has 785 seats for the Members of the European Parliament, interpretation rooms in glass-fronted booths around the walls and the press and public galleries above.

This monument inside the hemicircle looked like a football, and you know what to do with those...

At one point, you can get the two monuments in one single frame, and given the weather, it looked pretty cool.

Di, Jacques and Nicole... And booklets describing the works on the European Parliament, in English and in Swedish.

Unfortunately, the European Parliament was not sitting this week and hence no tours were on offer. Regardless, you had to book before arriving there and not just rock up there like we did.

We spoke to a Securitas lady in a mix of French, German and English and she advised that only toilets and booklets were available for punters like us today.

Hans tried to add Swedish into that European mix of languages, but the security lady just laughed and shook her head.

After taking advantage of both toilets and booklets, we left the building and walked around its perimeters instead.

A covered footbridge links the Parliament building with the Winston Churchill Building on the other side of the River Ill.

The bridge from underneath looking across river Ill.

The white swans are hardy fowls. They seem to survive these chilly conditions without any fuss and were constantly getting their heads underwater looking for feed.

We completed a full circle around this enormous building and the parliament and flags looked good from this angle.

Despite the building not being open for a peekaboo inside, we were glad that we made the effort to see it. It is such a familiar image from news reports and also an amazing building from the outside at least.

We wandered back to Parlament Europeen tram station for a return to town. You buy your tickets from these ticket machines that could be found at all tram stations, and validated them by getting a date and time stamp onto your ticket using that grey box to the right. Easy enough.

Relatively cheap ticket prices too at 1€30 per person for what is referred to as a short trip (BTW, we finally figured out the correct way of describing Euros and Cents which is as per above).

This just looked funny. Somebody had sat here waiting for the tram and you could still see the bum impression on the icy bench.

This is how the tram looks on the inside, an interesting choice of colour scheme.

We had to get off the tram at Place de la Republique as it was then diverting away from Strasbourg's city centre, so we did, and walked along the Ill.

Cold and frosty but it looked really good. One bridge one way...

...and another bridge the other way.

This section of the river had a few larger vessels anchored including what looked like a few party boats.

Looking the other way from where the previous photo was taken...

...and looking down and to the left. Hmm... Someone's home perhaps? They may have river views but we wouldn't like to change with them.

Then we saw some Italian flags and market stalls a block away from the river and decided to check it out. Yep, a Wednesday market.

This was really something else. The smell was mouthwatering and the heat around here was also much pleasant as the weather was so cold. The fat from the chooks fell into that tray of chips and we bet that it would be seriously unhealthy. It would likely also taste absolutely delicious.

Back into Strasbourg's city centre and a cross section here of Christmas decorations and sales.

First, teddy bears galore...

This balcony displayed a variety of animals, all fully in white...

Sometimes you just feel like the walls are caving in...

And this whole strip was in for the show. All you ever wanted for Christmas decorations and a hell of a lot more.

We ducked into a shopping centre for a little while, just to warm up, yes it was that cold. Then we decided to get back to base for a break via the train station where we needed to pick up our train tickets for tomorrow's Paris trip (we also had booked two other train trips in France).

The online booking spiel says that you can pick up your tickets through a machine at the station, just provide your booking reference number and the credit card you used for your booking.

Well, that's all good... if you are a French citizen. The machine only acknowledges French credit cards despite you having made the booking with a card from another country. So, we had to talk to a real person and got the tickets manually printed. And yes, she said that this happens a lot (no surprises there, perhaps a small capital investment would be warranted).

After a break in the room, Hans didn't feel like lunch so Di left by herself as she was hungry for lunch and at 1.30pm went in search of her favorite soup - French onion gratinee. It's been 2 whole days in France and none yet. This dilemma was soon fixed in a bistro at Place Gutenberg. Yummy.

After lunch the sun was shining and again Strasbourg looked beautiful along the river. The nearly 400 years of Strasbourg being German really shows. It was only annexed to France in the late 1600's.

A very pleasant stroll before it started to get cold again and Di returned to the hotel.

A bit later, after Di returned, Hans did go out just for a wander in the neighborhood. He ventured into a middle eastern shop that sold everything and anything, a bit like the Chinese junk shops but also with more expensive items such as elaborate clothing for the modern Islamic woman. Interesting.

Hans picked up a baguette across the road for our dinner later in the room.

Lazy evening. The cold weather doesn't exactly entice you out at night. Tomorrow Paris, but for now good night.


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