The Capital of Christmas ...

If ever there was a time to visit Strasbourg, that time is now. Until 31 December in the 'Capital of Christmas', 13 markets selling handicrafts, delectable biscuits and treats, and hot, festive drinks line the 15th-and 16th-century streets. The market started in 1570 - and needless to say has been perfected over the centuries. Visitors cluster, their mittened hands tightly clasped around steaming mugs of mulled wine. Above, creative window displays of polar bears, gingerbread men or intertwined Christmas vines are illuminated by understated lights.

At the weekend when Tim and I visited, I was in awe of the narrow, medieval buildings, of which the roofs extend to varying heights and slope at varying degrees. They are a spectacle best admired from the top of the Notre-Dame Cathedral. This might require a 332-step climb to a height of 66 metres, but the rewards are worth it. In the distance the modern, glass buildings of the European Parliament stand out in an almost space-age fashion against the sienna rooftops around. We got closer during a boat trip, which took us around the so-called 'island' where the city centre is and then to the outskirts.

Strasbourg is much bigger than I imagined, and going by boat is a great way to see all the main sights - a headset gives you all the important names and dates of buildings. One particularly beautiful corner is La Petite France, a cluster of fourteenth century buildings tucked amongst five branches of the River Ill. It was enchanting to see the remaining five towers of the city walls, and the covered bridges beneath. These were spectacularly illuminated at nighttime.

We ate in a traditional beer house where I enjoyed salmon fillet on a bed of Sauerkraut, doused in a cream sauce. We spent lunchtimes at the market, eating grilled baguettes with gooey toppings; and we ate far too many roasted almonds, marshmallow kisses and chocolate. Patisserie Christian in the centre is a spot not to miss - we treated ourselves to golf-ball sized truffles filled with butter-cream like chocolate.. mmm... ( I really enjoyed the opportunity to be immersed in French again - and sample their famous food. We did in fact little but eat and spent most of our budget on food - the French certainly know what they're doing when it comes to the edible in life. Then there was the mulled wine - oh the mulled wine ...
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