Day 2: Strasbourg & Obernai, France
The next morning began early. My alarm clock woke me up at 7.15am so that I had enough time to get ready and have a little breakfast before the buses left for downtown Strasbourg. Even though I had not booked any shore excursions, a separate transfer bus was provided for all individually traveling guests as well, free of charge. So I could not only enjoy the highlights of Strasbourg in the morning, but also the afternoon excursion into the picturesque village of Obernai in the heart of the Alsace.
Excellence Princess docked for a short moment close to the Europa Bridge, where we disembarked the ship and made our way to the buses waiting. Moments later, she continued to her original anchoring position in Gambsheim, which laid a little further up the stream and would not be as easily accessible from Strasbourg by taxi as with the offered shuttle service.
The only drawback was the time that I could actually spend exploring the beautiful historic part of the city. As the waiting time at some locks had been longer than actually expected, we had lost an entire hour overnight. So when the buses departed for downtown, there were only two instead of three hours left for touring the sights before the return at noon to the ship´s docking position.
A great thing was the central location of the main bus terminal. It was just a 15 minutes walk from here to the borders of the French Quarter, which is one of the city´s main sights. Beautifully appointed timbered houses and romantic cobblestone side alleys were occupied by cute little shops and cafés, as well as restaurants with outside terraces to relax in the sun underneath old oak trees. It was like traveling back in time. The sun was shining brightly and the town was just waking up to this brilliant Spring day.
Photo Gallery Strasbourg
I took a few moments to walk criss-cross through the streets and alleys before I made my way towards the main square and the gigantic cathedral towering above. Two hours were not even roughly enough time to grant the city the attention that it deserved, but it was absolutely enough to decide that Strasbourg was well worth it to come back for on a weekend trip or so. I did not enter the church nor the viewing platform on top in order to get a few more snapshots of the town and the hidden side streets. Then, it was already time to head back to the bus station. Loaded with wonderful impressions and memories, we headed back to the ship for a sumptuous lunch.
At two o´clock, it was time for the next excursion to Obernai. This beautiful Alsatian village lies on the eastern slopes of the Vosges mountains, about an hour drive from Strasbourg.
The roots of Obernai go back to 1240 which can be seen in the city´s well preserved historic center with lots of beautifully arranged middle-age buildings. A wide range of cafés and restaurants invite to linger in the sun while feasting on local delicacies and wines. Obernai is actually a very important location for beer and wine production in North Eastern France. The local wine is called Vin du Pistolet and Kronenbourg being the main beer brand.
Again, the buses parked in an easy-to-walk distance to the old town, where I got myself a map for 0,50€ at the local Tourist Information. A nice walking tour of around an hour takes you around town and the most important sites like the Old Six-Bucket Well, the Clocktower, the Romanesque houses in Rue des Pélerins, the impressive St. Paul´s church and the Place du Marché.
I did mount the highest elevation around by foot which offers a fantastic panorama over Obernai and the surroundings, but you could also use the little motorized train offering city tours, if you liked. This might be a better alternative if you are looking to sit down in one of the many places to sample a glass of wine of the region, a snack or simply stroll around for some shopping. Great souvenirs from Alsace are local wines, Armagnac or handmade pottery. There is also a very cool store producing self-made spice bread, sweetened only with honey and available in the most mouth-watering tastes!
Photo Gallery Obernai
The return to the ship was again spiked with delay. Massive traffic congestions around Strasbourg forced us to travel overland. But as much as we lost time, the scenic drive was most wonderful.
I was so exhausted by the end of the day, that after the final course of the excellent dinner, I retrieved to my cabin and took the most well deserved rest I could get. To be ready for the next day and the explorations that would await…