Kari & Ryan
Day Trip to Strasbourg: Riding a Segway in a Fairy-Tale Town
Pit Stop in Saarbrücken
Traveling again, finally! After several canceled trips due to Corona Virus, we were FINALLY able to get out and do some traveling over a 3-day weekend. Oh, how I was looking forward to crossing the border and indulging in some French culture including, of course, the baguettes!
Whenever we eat bread in Europe, Ryan crunches it and listens to his bread just like we were expertly taught to do by Disney’s Ratatouille. You know a good bread by its sound.
With our main focus of our 3-day weekend being Europa Park, we drove without a time crunch and made a couple pit stops along the way. On our way to Europa Park, we stopped in Saarbrücken to hit up the Lush store. I love their products, so this was a stop especially just for me. I lucked out and the cashier threw in about €30 extra of products for free! It was something about clearing inventory they couldn’t put out anymore. Lucky day!
The Energy of the City
Now that businesses are opening back up, there are reminders everywhere to wear masks and, particularly, to make sure that your nose is actually in the mask. It gets so hot wearing a mask, and so it’s become a regular part of our culture now to pull down the mask just over our mouths. It’s so strange to think a few months ago no one was wearing masks, and now it’s almost second nature.
Anyways. I digress.
After spending a few months in the countryside without venturing much from our home, it felt so foreign to step into a bustling city. It’s hard to think I used to live in Bratislava, a city of almost 450,000 people. (I know this is an exceptionally small city compared to placed like Berlin or New York, but it is still double the size of my home city, Salt Lake City, of 200,000 people. It’s a big city to me.) It used to be that a normal day consisted of switching tram lines, avoiding homeless drunk men, and treading streets decorated with bulletins, litter, and graffiti. Living now in a village of less than 1,000 people, I’ve grown so accustomed to the peace and quiet of the fields, the clacking of storks, and seeing more cows, sheep, and goats than people.
Every time I go into the city I have a mixed experience. Like a magnet, it pulls me in and I feel energized by the diversity, music, museums, food, lights, movement, and all the other facets of a city. I feel invigorated, inspired, and appreciate in the increased, intellectual stretching of my mind. Yet, I also feel the overwhelm, the suffocation, and the pollution sinking into my skin and lungs. It’s funny how you notice things like that—the air. It is almost as if the cities give us reasons to live, while the country makes living easier.
Gingerbread in Gertwiller
We only stopped in Saarbrücken briefly, and then continued on to Gertwiller and then Strasbourg. For a few moments, I sat by the church in Gertwiller and sketched some of the architecture. A school group of French children walked past singing the cutest little French songs with their teachers. It made me smile.
If I were to do this trip over, I don’t think I would stop over to Gertwiller, even though we did enjoy some delicious Gingerbread. Gertwiller has been renowned for its gingerbread since the 1700s. There are a couple places to stop in and get some of the delicious gingerbread as well as see the workshops where the gingerbread is made. Personally... it felt like we drove 30-40 minutes out of our way to visit a gift shop with a variety of gingerbreads. You can get some cute photos in front of a Hansel and Gretel gingerbread house! I can say that the gingerbread was probably the best I’ve had.
So, if you LOVE gingerbread, then it’s probably worth stopping in Gertwiller. If not, continue on to Strasbourg. (You can also order the gingerbread online on their website).
Gertwiller Gingerbread Stops
1. La Maison du Pain d'épices Lips. Musée du pain d'épices et de l'Art Populaire Alsacien
110 rue Principale
Tél : 03 88 08 93 52
I’d first start by checking out this super simple PDF guide. It has a route you can walk to take a self-guided tour of the city. It shows you all the major attractions to see, places to get food, rent bikes, etc. It’s also where we found our Segway Tour.
We drove into Strasbourg around 2pm. If you drive to Strasbourg, I highly recommend downloading the Strasbourg Parking app. It will show you all the parking garages available and how many spaces are open. There’s a few different zones and price ranges for parking. The gist of it is that the closer you are to the historic city center, the more you’ll pay to park. Make sense? We parked at Rue de la Rotonde and paid about €7 for 3-4 hours of parking. There are parking garages where you can park for the whole day at about €4 euros and as part of the price you get a tram ticket into the city center for up to 7 people in 1 car. It’s called a Park and Ride.
We decided not to do the Park and Ride option because it was about a 30 minute tram ride into the city, and with our short time frame it was worth it to spend a couple more euros and park closer. If you’re going to stay the whole day, however, and don’t want to spend €20 on parking, then the park and ride may be a great transportation option.
Traveling in the City:
You can download the Strastram app if you want to take trams around the city... but really it’s best to see the city on foot, bike, or... Segway!
Strasbourg is a city for bikes! It has over 580km of biking trails, and we definitely saw bikers EVERYWHERE. Our tour guide shared with us that it’s one of the top cycling cities in Europe. There are also plans to continue reducing car use in the city and to encourage greener travel methods, so there will likely even be more biking and bike trails in the future, and more prohibitions on vehicles.
(If you have the time and the desire, then there is a cycling route that combines French and German heritage that is 85km along the Rhine River. There’s 19 fortifications that make up Strasbourg’s famous “ring of forts”—learn more here
Most of the historic city center is car-free zone. You can rent a Vélhop bike to get around.
There are conventional bikes, e-bikes, tandems, and even kids bikes you can rent.
Price: from € 6 /full-day and € 18 / week - Deposit: from € 150 /bike
Also available for short-term hire from self-hire stations
Online rental: Velhop Rental
1. Train station rental shop (Level -1): Tel: 00 33 9 60 17 74 63
Access: tram A, C or D “Gare Centrale” stop
2. Centre rental shop: 3, rue d’Or: Tel: 00 33 9 65 27 97 25
Access: tram A or D “Porte de l’Hôpital” Stop
Opening hours: From November to March: Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 9.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and 2 to 5.30 p.m.- From April to October:
Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 9.30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
3. University rental shop: 23, boulevard. de la Victoire Tel: 00 33 9 62 32 06 46 Access: tram C, E or F “Gallia” stop
Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
Travel by Segway
Unlike our other trips, this day trip was quite spontaneous without much planning. We literally showed up in Strasbourg and decided to see what we could do. We spotted segway tours in the PDF brochure from the city, and decided that sounded like a fun adventure right up our alley.
We made our way over to One City Tours, where we met Yves and received our first Segway lesson. This was an incredible way to see Strasbourg! We ended up with a private tour for the two of us, due to a lack of tourists being there. Yves told us this would never happen under normal conditions, but these are odd times right now. He even extended our tour for us past the 1 hour we had paid for because there weren’t other customers.
If you're looking for a great way to see Strasbourg, contact Yves. His English is great and he was a fantastic tour guide.
I had never been on a Segway before, and so Yves gave both Ryan and I some introductory training. For the first 10 or 20 minutes, we skirted around the sidewalk in front of the store learning how to accelerate, stop, turn, and get on and off the Segway. Once Yves was convinced we could adequately and safely maneuver the Segways, we headed out to tour the city. We continued with a bit more training on how to use the Segways, such as going over rougher terrains, tilted walkways, narrower roads, and once we demonstrated some competence, Yves took off our training wheels and we got more speed!
At first, when I sped up the Segway and the bar came up it FREAKED me out a little bit. I thought something was going haywire with my machine and I was going to crash. Once I realized it’s supposed to do that... well, then it was all fine and we had a blast. Of course, a Segway is not the most inconspicuous way to see Strasbourg... but I’d argue it was the most fun way!
Yves was a fun guide because he included some cultural insights, history, and humor for us. For example, he informed us that the rooster is the French national bird. Why? Because in order for a Frenchman to be happy he has to be able to sing and have his feet in deep shit.
Well, if that isn’t French then I don’t know what is.
We learned that there are also windows marked with orange dots around the city on public buildings. Why? These orange dots are a form of insurance. The landlords pay a fee to put up the orange dots and they indicate to firemen which windows they can more easily enter in case of a fire so that windows don’t have to be broken in (which is costly to replace). I found this interesting.
We also loved the mesh of French and German culture. After living in Germany now for over a year, we know how much the Germans love their rules and can be quite rigid at times when it comes to the orders, ways, and processes of doing almost everything. We love to go camping, and have found it somewhat frustrating that Wild Camping is not allowed in Germany. You can only camp in designated campgrounds.
As we asked if the culture in France was the same, meaning no wild camping allowed, it was funny to hear the response of, well... there are always two questions in France. One, Can you? And two, Are you allowed to? So, is Wild Camping Allowed? No, -ish. Could you wild camp? Yes, -ish. This is not an answer you would ever get from a German, haha!
Along our route we went through La Petite France and the historic streets of Strasbourg. We learned that there are asian-looking symbols throughout the city on the stones, which are actually not asian at all. Instead, they are the branding symbols of the stone makers. Pretty cool, huh?
We finished off our day by grabbing some pastries at Christian’s, which were delicious! We snagged a baguette at Paul’s and some Macarons, because I always have to visit a Paul’s every time I’m in France. Who doesn’t love a giant Macaron? Pistache and Framboise are my favorites! (Pistachio and Raspberry).
Where to stay:
We drove a little more to Ringsheim where we checked into our Hotel La Toscana. Yet, another pleasant surprise was that Eugene had upgraded our room for us to a larger room with a balcony. Could this trip get any better? We absolutely loved staying here. (You can find my review here under Kari 5 July 2020) It’s an Italian family run hotel and they truly went above and beyond to ensure we had a comfortable stay. You can read my review about it here, but I’ll shortly say it would be awesome for couples or families. There is a Norma grocery store just right next door, too.
They didn’t have too many guests, due to COVID, and so this was just another blissful treat for us. We settled into our room and flipped on Hamilton, but decided we want to wait to see the real thing in person (we had tickets to see it in April in London... but COVID canceled that...)
Instead, we ended up watching Sister Act while snacking on some sliced meats from Spain, French cheese, grapes, and our Baguette. We settled into our comfy beds and prepared for the next full day of adventuring at Europa Park!