6 hours in Strasbourg

December 7, 2016

FIELD NOTES

7:26 – 9:13

It’s cold. One of the coldest mornings I’ve had since I’ve been in Europe. I’ve dozed off a few times on my train from Luxembourg City. Snow fell last night in some of the villages that scatter the countryside. Trees are frozen by fog and mist. It seems to never burn off like it does at home. Each branch is wrapped in ice and shimmers as the train pushes forward through the small sleepy towns of France. A ray of sun would be nice, but this dark cloud is somewhat romantic. I think it’ll keep just for the day. I’ll let it loom over me, see what it brings, what it has to offer.

9:14

I step off the train almost wishing I could have another 30 minutes of dozing off in the warm train car. It’s cold on the platform and I turn back to the train to bid it adieu. The streets of Strasbourg, France are empty. A city map directs me to the city center. My first order of business is a coffee and a croissant.

9:37

No croissant yet. I’ve been side tracked by the quiet streets and the camera that I can’t seem to put down. I continue to click away at the everyday mundane things this city offers. The bricks on the ground, my feet walking on the bricks on the ground, the buildings made of the bricks that apparently I just can’t seem to get enough of. The only things that seem to be awake on the streets I walk along are seagulls, which remind me of my own hometown. I wonder where they came from and if they prefer croissants to donuts…?

9:54

I am officially frozen from head to toe. But luckily I’ve put the idle seagull chatter to rest and have found coffee and a croissant in a warm café. I quickly realize that I know no French and although I listen to lots of French café music on Spotify it hasn’t helped me order a croissant or a coffee. I smile politely and hope I’m doing things right.

10:53

I’ve quickly made my way through the Christmas markets, which are beautifully decorated, but beginning to pack with crowds of tourists. I walk into a salami shop and tell the shopkeeper I’m Canadian when he asks where I’m from. I buy the meat and leave. 2016 was a tough election year.

11:19

I’m too cold and trying my best to blend in with the local culture, which has left me, walking down lots of shadow filled alleys. I dip off the main rode and find a museum about Alsatian culture. I have zero clue what this means, but I figure I’ll learn. Get cultured. . .and warm.

12:01

I’m cultured and ready for a local beer. More culture, more beer, and cause it’s vacation, right? I also need a bit of Wi-Fi. I wander through back alleys. A group, of what seems like the age of kindergarteners, passes by me in a long line like a train. They hum along the brick road on their afternoon walk possibly heading back to the schoolhouse from the playgrounds. I quickly duck around the corner and the quiet alley bring me life – aka beer.

12:17

I have Wi-Fi and a rude French man standing behind the bar staring at me waiting for me to pick out my beer. What more could I ask for?

12:23

We’ve begun our banter.

12:26

My beer comes.

12:27

He throws the coaster on the worn out, liquid stained wooden bar. He places the beer down, announces the price and holds out his hand. I give him the coins. He then turns his back and throws them into a pile.

12:29

He tells me it’s his “job” to be rude to me. That he must keep up with the French reputation. I smile because I think we’re about to become friends.

12:47

I was right. We’re friends. He’s on the phone with the restaurant next door. He tells me to ask for Lukas and to tell him that the better looking Lukas sent me…Lukas sends me on my way with a beer glass to remember him by…I don’t oblige.

13:01

My coat is swiftly taken off my back. I sit down at a table right away as if they’ve been awaiting my arrival.

13:10

It’s a full three-course menu. I go for the half bottle of wine for myself because . . . fuck it.

13:16

I have my waiter pick out the items on the menu. He pours the wine, smiles shyly, and runs off into the small kitchen.

13:17

I sip and look around the dimly lit restaurant. Candles seem to be the only source of light. It’s packed. The mid-week lunch crowd, full of business people, really knows how to enjoy a nice lunch outside of the office.

13:39

By course two, the lunch crowd has almost cleared the connecting small rooms. I am so full of beautifully plated food. But it seems that the waiter has continued pouring wine and I seem to have continued drinking it.

13:45

I am now the only person left in the restaurant and the staff has invited me to stay as they set up the restaurant for a private party. I smile, sip my wine and watch as they haul a mid-sized Christmas tree through the front door.

14:14

The time has escaped me in between small conversations with the restaurant staff. I get up from my table feeling warm from the wine. I have a train to catch. I show myself to the ladies room.

14:19

I wash my hands in the communal water basin outside the bathroom stall. I dry my hands. As I make my way through the small corridor a familiar face wraps around the alternate exit. It’s my waiter. He passes a small piece of paper into my hand, smiles, and walks into the main dining room before me.

14:20

I look into my palm at the paper. His name and phone number scratched in pencil. I smile.

14:24

I walk out the front door. He’s standing outside smoking a cigarette. He asks if I’ll be staying the night. I tell him I’m thinking about it . . .

14:25

I actually think about it . . .

14:26

I say goodbye and walk away feeling the scrap paper with his number slide across the glossy card stock of the 15:04 train ticket in my pocket back to Luxembourg City.

14:45

I’m close to the train station. The sun has come out and it’s casting shadows on the newest travelers who seem to have just stepped off the train and into this fairy tale.

14:46

I take a second look at a couple who stands in front of a building taking pictures, in awe of it’s beauty; the same beauty that has become somewhat familiar to me now.

14:48

I walk up to them and look at them. I’m tipsy. I’m in shock. They’re my neighbors from back home in New Jersey.

14:49

She screams, gathers me in between her and her husband, and takes a selfie. She tells me she has been planning this trip for a year. I bought my train ticket last night. I feel terrible about that thought.

15:03

The train approaches slowly to the platform. 6 hours in Strasbourg and I think I’ve got a lot to show for it.

2 Comments

  1. Chris Pisani

    I feel like I was there. I love how your visual descriptions of the small details in your surrounding environment, your perceptions of things, and descriptions of what you feel like puts the reader in a state where one can see and feel the moment; in a professional way almost like a Dickens novel, but then you throw in a joke, a twist of modern sarcasm, and reveal your personality and sense of humor to the reader, reminding one that this is the 21st century and this is you. I am no expert critic or literary master, but I have an appreciation for the art and I praise your poetic prose, and needed to show appreciation after reading because of the way it made me feel. Very well done.

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