Heavy raindrops spotted the windshield as we set off on our weekend venture to Strasbourg. The grey, brooding sky reflected our sudden change in mood. We had been enjoying beautiful, spring-like days in Germany for a couple of weeks, a welcome reprieve from seemingly endless winter months, and we were looking forward to our first family get-away of a new, sunnier season.
We were pretty disappointed when the cold returned and the clouds started rolling in that morning. For a moment or two, I actually considered scrapping our plans and forfeiting the hefty hotel cancellation fee as I weighed whether or not the trip was even worth taking in crummy weather. In the end, we made a last-minute decision to go anyway, and I am so glad we did not miss out on the adventures we shared together.
When it comes to time spent at any duty station, we are learning just how important it is to make the most of every opportunity we have to see, explore, and experience new places because the truth is, we never know how long we are going to be at any specific location.
With you and your family in mind, I have compiled a few take-aways from our trip to Strasbourg so you can enjoy a memorable trip to this enchanting World Heritage site together, no matter the weather.
Tour the city from the comfort of a riverboat cruise
Rain or shine, Batorama offers inexpensive tours of Strasbourg from the deck of a riverboat cruise. If you are only in the city for a day, I suggest you put this at the top of your list of things to do. It is a great and cost-effective (in terms of time and money) way to see many of the historic sites. Audio guides with a number of different language channels are available, which you tune to from your seat.
The commentary is well-done and chock full of interesting tidbits about the region’s colorful history. There is even a channel just for children, which has a wacky pirate narrating. Our boys loved it, and I was definitely surprised it held their attention for as long as it did! There is also a restroom on board, which is a huge perk, especially when you have little ones. Be sure to purchase your tickets online before you go so you do not have to wait in the long lines.
When it comes to choosing a hotel, it’s all about… charm, charm, charm
If you are up for trying something new, think about staying away from chain hotels and look for a family friendly bed-and-breakfast with good reviews. If you need help searching, Booking.com is a great place to start – that’s where we found Hotel Suisse, which is just a stone’s throw away from the cathedral. We could see its lacy, towering steeple from our window. In the end, it may be a little more expensive, but I think it is worth it in the long run for a more authentic cultural experience. Waking up to a traditional French breakfast is a memorable adventure all on its own.
Decide when and where you want to eat before you get there
Strasbourg is known for its fine restaurants and traditional German-infused French cuisine. If you wait until your stomach starts grumbling to look for a place to eat, you just might find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed (and hangry) like we did.
Check out menus, prices, and reviews online, make reservations, if necessary, and come up with a plan of attack ahead of time so you can stick to your budget without wishing you had tried something new when you had the chance… like I did. Next time we go, I have to taste the crepes!
Indulge in the finer things Strasbourg has to offer in the way of street fare
Speaking of crepes, Strasbourg offers plenty of tasty treats to nibble on as you make your way through the narrow, winding cobblestone streets, if that is more your style (it is ours; street food is my personal favorite!). Crispy pommes frites are served hot in paper cones and pair well with a tasty Bratwurst.
Also, in our short time in Europe, I have become obsessed with French macarons, and I am on a mission to try every color and flavor. The same goes for gelato, as a matter of fact.
Take the kids to Parc de L’Orangerie to burn off extra energy
After a day spent wandering through the city, little ones often need some time just to run free for a bit. If your kiddos are feeling stir-crazy, head out to Parc de L’Orangerie where you will find plenty of wide-open green spaces, a playground, a lake where you can rent boats when the weather is pleasant, cafés, and even a tiny zoo with free admission.
If you have time, go on an excursion to Montagnes de Singes
Just 45 minutes from Strasbourg, there is a forest where monkeys are free to roam on their own mountainside. If you have ever wondered what it is like to get up close and personal with a primate, take a trip to Montagnes de Singes and feed your new friends popcorn from the palm of your hand. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip!
Look for discounts
Looking back on our trip, the city lights reflecting off wet cobblestones, colorful umbrellas and snuggle sessions I had with my family as we fought to keep warm added a little something to the romantic feel and beauty of Strasbourg. We may have had a more comfortable trip if it had been warmer and sunny, but I am so glad we did not let a little bit of rain wash away our plans.
Just like my friend, Charlotte, says, there is no such thing as bad weather in Europe… only the wrong clothes. In other words, if we wait for good weather to travel, we may never go anywhere.
Strasbourg, France – or any city, for that matter – can be enjoyed… rain, snow or sunshine.
Courtney is a military spouse, mom of 2 boys, graduate student, and part-time writer-editor for a travel & lifestyle magazine serving military families stationed in Europe. She has a heart for our troops and their families and hopes to share what little she has learned along the way to help others overcome the unique challenges of military life. You can follow her adventures at her blog, Courtney At Home, or through her social media: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.