Continuing with the Taste of Alsace tour in Strasbourg from last week's post...we headed into the centerpiece of the town...
Cathedral de Notre Dame de Strasbourg
Similar to the other Viking-sponsored tours, we learned some history of the city, centered mostly on this magnificent building. Unlike the cathedral in Cologne, we had the benefit of our guide Aimee taking us in and guiding our group.
Unfortunately, her whisper microphone wasn't working. This device allowed her to speak into a headphone attached to a transmitter, which connected to our smaller receivers. The system stopped working just at the moment we needed it most.
When we walked into the Strasbourg cathedral, Aimee needed to speak softly to respect being in a sacred place but loudly enough that we could all hear her. That plan worked sometimes and didn't in others. But simply looking at the massive Gothic interior was sufficient to experience its grandeur.
My personal spiritual connection
I am not Catholic, but I went to a parochial school and learned plenty about it. However, whenever I enter a Catholic church, a certain reverence overcomes me and I feel like I should cross myself with holy water at the entrance, genuflect in the center aisle and pray. It happens every time I go into one, from the simplest chapel to the grandest basilica. Here in Strasbourg, I followed that ritual. I also knelt in one of the pews and said a quick prayer for my family, whom I missed terribly.
The main feature of the cathedral is a gigantic astronomical clock in one of the alcoves near the altar. It rises about 50 feet above the floor and measures time, planetary rotations, solar and lunar positions. It also displays a perpetual calendar and 1½ foot figures of Jesus and the apostles. The current clock is its third iteration. I didn't take photos of it, because it was covered in a lot of plastic and darkness.
La Cloche a Fromage
We continued our walk through Strasbourg, heading into a more modern section of town that included a Starbucks. I thought that French cultural standards would never allow such a thing, but there it was, crowded like the ones back home.
Amy then took us toÂ a cheese shop, La Cloche a Fromage (The Bell Cheese), where the owner helpfully explained the different types of cheese produced in various regions of France. He used a wooden board cut in the shape of the country, with carved marking to indicate each areas.
Much like wine, the different varieties and flavors of cheese depend on the where the cows, goats and sheep are raised, which affects their milk. I began to understand the reason why the French have raise cheesemaking to the art form that's known worldwide. We took three different types of cheese and proceeded to a boulangerie for baguettes, a patisserie for desserts and finally a wine store to taste Riesling and feast on our treasures Oenosphere, on one of Strasbourg's busier streets.
Time for a Strasbourg feast
Still a little stuffed from the tarte flambee lunch, I managed to enjoy each of the foods given to us at the wine shop. Most of the cheeses were soft enough to spread on the pillowed freshly baked bread. They made a great contrast in taste with their sharp saltiness and creamy lusciousness.
Normally, I do not care for Riesling, but because it's the regional specialty of Alsace, it becomes something to savor. It's not just fruity and sweet - it can also be as dry and full-bodied as any Chardonnay. Pairing it with other delicacies of eastern France and western Germany becomes a wonderful culinary celebration.
Strasbourg is certainly a place worth visiting on another trip, when I would love to see more of the Alsace region. It's definitely a destination that you should consider exploring if you love food, as I do.