Month: February 2018

Strasbourg: A Well Known “Secret”

Strasbourg: A Well Known “Secret”

France is by no means a “best kept secret” of the travel world.

Boasting destinations like Paris, Nice, Marseille, and the French Riviera, France has perfected the art of combining relaxation with culture and class. One city, though, more than any other that I’ve had the pleasure of coming across, outshines even the City of Lights.

Strasbourg, located on the border of eastern France and western Germany, is the capital of the Grand Est/Alsace region. Its prominence as a European city is compounded by the fact that it is home to one of the three official seats of the European Parliament. Strasbourg is no stranger to the long and deep-roots of European history as the original foundation for the site was laid with the Roman camp of Argentoratum in 12 BC. From the humble camp, of which the ruins of fortification walls can still be found throughout the city today, Strasbourg grew into a bustling center of commerce, ideas, art, and architecture.

The very location of Strasbourg has seen to it that the city is no stranger to world affairs, drenching her in historical intrigue and character. The Cathedral of Strasbourg is perhaps the cities biggest attraction, and for good reason. Originally started in 1015 over the remains of a Roman temple on the very same spot, the cathedral didn’t open until 1439 due to the sheer magnitude of the building. It still stands as the 10th tallest cathedral in the world. Its gothic architecture is highlighted by the rust red of the facade and the intricate statues of the doorways leading inside. Perhaps the most breathtaking experience with the cathedral takes place in the warm summer months when the entire front and side of the church is lit up with a light show, first depicting what colors would have appeared on the statues and then moving into artistic shows of movement accompanied by music. To this day, the light show on the cathedral is the most mesmerizing event I have attended.

Moving away from the obvious attraction of Strasbourg, the city itself is a living memorial to the relationship between France and Germany over the last few hundred years. Strasbourg was a pivotal city in World War II and German occupation in France, changing hands several times before being held in permanence by France. Because of this, the city is known for its particular “Alsace” dialect, a mix of French and German tongues. Few people still speak it today, but most everyone at least knows someone who can still spout it off. Along with the particular dialect, Strasbourg’s melding of German and French culture is evident in their wood beamed architecture alongside ornate bridges, their sausage specialties served alongside crepes. With Germany just a bike ride away, visitors are able to explore the best of both countries all while calling Strasbourg home base.

While summer is an obvious popular travel time, Strasbourg’s appeal transcends the summer holidays. In the spring, flower shops offer visitors a real taste of the french countryside, cloaking the town in bright colors and aromatic draws. The winter months of November and December host the Christmas Festival that takes up downtown squares and streets. Handmade nutcrackers, wreaths, paintings, baked goods… anything and everything. If you’re lucky to visit during the Christmas festivals, you might even see the city blanketed in snow- a true winter wonderland fit for even a Hallmark movie.

While France offers a broad range of attractive destinations, Strasbourg should be at the top of your list. From the Cathedral to museums and festivals, it combines classics French and German culture into a truly unique experience. If you end up adding this beautiful city to your list of must- visits, I would love to hear from you.

Dublin Your Luck While Visiting Ireland

Dublin Your Luck While Visiting Ireland

 

 

Dublin, Ireland:  a place known best, perhaps, for its culture of song, dance, drink, and fellowship of friends and visitors alike. Dublin is a city that offers a wide variety of attractions for cheap and accessible rates. Even if visiting for a few short days, you can jam pack your trip with factory tours and tastings, walking tours, trips to the cliffs, and even plays for a low budget.

Dublin travel pass

During my visit, I only had 3 full days to explore and experience as much of the city as possible. In preparation for doing so, I pegged down some tips that I think any fellow Dublin goer would be interested in. My first and biggest suggestion is that you invest in a day travel pass. The Dublin Pass is offered in 1, 2, 3, and 5 day packages and ranges from 52 euros to 104 euros. While a pretty steep sum initially, this was a huge money and time saving investment. With the card, you get free entrance to countless attractions and discounts on many more. For instance, you get free entry to the guinness factory (normally 25 euros), free hop on-hop off bus transportation, free entry into the Jameson distillery, the cathedrals, museums, and more. By using the Dublin Pass, I was able to see more of the city via the bus and I saved roughly 100 euros thanks to the free entry the pass allowed for places like Guinness and Jameson. There’s also a discount on the pass if you purchase online!

Go on a walking tour in Dublin

My second piece of advice is to participate in a walking tour of the city with a guide. Usually, I’m not one for these. I like to go at my own pace and explore. However, a guided tour allowed me to see places I might have skipped while learning an immense amount of history, folklore, and charm that immerses Dublin. The tour guides in Dublin were extremely energetic and passionate about their city, and were happy to share their love of Dublin with us. Through your hostel, hotel, or even the Dublin Pass, you can find these tours for cheap or free, even.

Take a train ride to Howth

My third piece of advice is to take a train and go to the cliffs of Howth, just outside of Dublin. The train ticket will cost about 5 euros and takes you right to the lovely village of Howth. From there, you can walk by the quaint harbor and make your way up the cliffs. While not as famed as, say, the cliffs of Moher, Howth is quiet and not crowded with hoards of people making their way up the same path. We were able to pack a lunch, eat on the side of the cliffs, and enjoy traversing the countryside. It by no means is a challenging hike or walk and the generally cool climate of Ireland made it a relaxing afternoon.

Dublin has a world to offer her visitors. People on a time crunch or budget are able to experience the soul of the city without the stress that larger metropolis areas would present. Going in flexible and open to explore will leave you wanting to join in on all the activity.

 

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