22 September 2012

Saying farewell to Strasbourg

Careful planning again gave me some time to explore one city before catching a train to the next. This time I was leaving Strasbourg for Reims.

The extra stop at Reims was added to the trip at the last moment as I was unable to get a train from Strasbourg to Paris on the Sunday (the Eurostar to London was already booked) and I decided that a morning would be enough to see Reims (it only has a cathedral after all) and so I spent as much of Saturday in Strasbourg as possible.

The day started grey and wet but there was a city to see and little time left to see it in so I headed out anyway. Besides, the forecast for later in the day was promising.

I started on the north side of Grande Ile to revisit the old buildings in quiet street that I had first walked through a couple of days previously. It seemed so much longer than that because of all the other sights that had filled the hours in between.

The rain was a friend and kept all but the most ardent tourists off the streets. It's not that I do not like people, I just do not like the way that they wear bright clothes when I am trying to take pictures.

All roads lead to the Cathedral, and that is no bad thing. Its Gothic excess is wonderful and can only be appreciated from close up.

By then the tourists were growing in confidence, or they had tight schedules that they could not change, and the impressive cathedral square was getting uncomfortably busy. It was time to move on.

As before, the next steps were random. Any good town is porous, i.e. pedestrians can flow easily in any direction, so there are always decisions to make on where to head next and without a firm destination these are all problematic decisions to make. Beauty became the deciding factor and headed down the road that offered the most promise.

Somewhere along the way I found a not too touristy cafe to have a late breakfast of the, by then, usual coffee and croissant.

I always look up a lot to make sure that I do not miss the exciting shapes that roofs often make and was well rewarded for doing so.

This is a fairly typical view of a neat roof punctured by equally neat windows. Elsewhere the gables rose high in a series of steps and chimneys made bold shapes against the brightening sky.

Grande Ile is not that large and I was vaguely walking from north to south so it was somewhat inevitable that I would arrive at Petite France yet again. That was the third time in three days and deliberately so.

By then the sun had won its battle against the grey clouds and the city was bright. The main beneficiaries of this were the houses along the quays who could show-off their reflections.

The third day in Petite France was an exhilarating as the first two, may be more so because of the better light.

The reflections changed the character of the area and I found myself taking retracing previous routes and retaking previous pictures to capture those changes.

Just being there was immensely uplifting. If I were to design an ideal town from scratch it would look something like this.

The bridges not only allow you to progress easily through Petite France but they were also the best places to stop and savour the scene.

I was keeping an eye on the clock and what started as a generous four hours to revisit parts of an old town that I had been to twice before soon ebbed away and I had to head back to the station and my next trains.

There was so much that I loved about Strasbourg in my three days there, and I've tried to capture some of that in the three posts that I have written about my time there, and if I had to, Desert Island Discs style, keep just one memory of those three days then it would be this picture.

Strasbourg was so impressive that I am even contemplating going against all my prejudices and having another holiday in France (one day).

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