There are two amazing things about this picture of the cathedral in Strasbourg. Firstly the church itself; amazing colour, amazing size, amazingly intricate detail – I’ll come back and explore tomorrow. Secondly the sky; it is blue. After the rain that I have endured today, both when cycling this morning and while doing my chores this afternoon, this is a miracle worthy of someone, somewhere being on the first step to canonisation.
If you are following my track via SPOT, you probably think I am still in the outskirts of the city; I am not. I just switched the device off as soon as I arrived earlier this afternoon and must have just missed the next 10 minute message.
To be honest I was a little disappointed on arrival. Clearly a time of biblical downpours is not the best time to arrive anywhere and the suburbs looked drab and dirty. I meandered my way into the centre following signs for ‘centre ville’ whenever I could see one. There is an extensive system if cyclepaths but as in many French cities there is also an extensive system of improvement works taking place (where do they get the money from?) so following the cycle routes was a bit hit and miss. I found myself in Place Kleber which appeared to be the central square, plonked myself in a bar and dripped. Two demi pressions later, I decided to make an effort to find somewhere to sleep. Although I had passed a campsite in the suburbs, I have always planned on this trip to use hotels when it big cities and saw no reason to not do so here. The Rough Guide mentioned a few interesting places, which, had I not been feeling as though I had been through a rinse cycle in a washing machine, I might have looked into. As it was, I just wanted to dry off and as soon as I saw the word ‘Ibis’ and a reasonable price on a sign outside, it was a done deal.
I slumped on the bed and dozed for around an hour before waking and showering without managing to slip on the bathroom floor (Ibis don’t do shiny floors in bathrooms thank goodness). My next task was to sort myself out with some clean clothes. Reception sent me off in one direction to find a laundrette…. but the place was boarded up. I returned to the hotel a little dejected to say the least. Reception now sent me off in the other direction and double the distance. And it started to rain again – chats et chiens, as the French don’t say. I must have passed for a tramp as I swam along the streets wearing a pair of shorts and a white t-shirt that was anything but and which was destined for the bin once I had alternative clothes to wear. Laundrettes don’t tend to be in the most fashionable parts if town; I couldn’t see a Gucci or Prada down the Boulevard de Lyon; there were however quite a few kebab shops, a dodgy hotel with an official accreditation from 2002 but with the stars taped out and lots of dodgy looking characters who kept popping onto the fishing tackle shop next door. None of them came out with anything resembling a fishing rod. My initial poor impression of Strasbourg was not being enhanced.
But the laundrette ticked all the boxes or perhaps more appropriately pushed all the buttons. Before you could say “we accept no responsibility for loss or damage to your clothes”, I had a dampish pile of freshly laundered clothes. Fantastic! And even better, it had stopped raining.
As I made my way back to the hotel, I made a real effort to see a more positive side to the city, and I began to see it in the sporadic glints of sunshine. My mood was also improved as I quickly found and bought a new white t-shirt and polo shirt for an amazingly cheap 15€ from H&M in the shopping centre next to the hotel.
I hung everything around the room to dry properly, put on my new clothes and set off into town. As I sit here on front of one of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever seen, my mood is back up to where it should be for someone on his holidays, looking forward to exploring the city tomorrow and meeting up with an old friend on Friday. Please let the weather improve…. PS: who called me today while I was at the laundrette? The number was ‘barred’.