The World on a Budget
Due to my increasing responsibilities here in London – mortgage, partner, full time job, numerous house plants (they can be so temperamental) – and having less than no money in my savings, my burning desire to pack everything up and travel the world indefinitely is just a distant glimmer of a dream. So as a compromise I have now made a commitment to make my way around Europe (and the world) one weekend at a time, in the cheapest way possible.
There are only two criteria:
1) I must never have visited the destination before
2) The flight must be less than £50
Strasbourg, France on a Budget
£15! London to Strasbourg. £15!? This is the cheapest flight I have ever bought. Or seen. Or heard of. So cheap, in fact, that the 45 minute coach journey to London Stansted airport is more expensive! SO cheap, in fact, that I am already wondering what the catch is and how the flight can possibly be so cheap. Is the airport actually a three and a half hour taxi ride from Strasbourg centre? Has something horrific happened there recently? Is Strasbourg just really crap?
After researching the location of the airport (an uber-convenient nine minute train journey), checking the local news (no terrorist attacks, riots or natural disasters in living memory) and searching Google images of Strasbourg (absolutely stunning), I am reassured.
In my research I find out some truly impressive facts about Strasbourg: Strasburg is a hub of political and legal institutions, containing, amongst many other things, the European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights; Strasbourg centre, the ‘Grand Ile’ is a UNESCO world heritage site with the historic Strasbourg Cathedral (or Cathedral Notre Dame de Strasbourg, built 1176-1439) as one of the main features; Located in the Alsace region near the border with Germany, Strasbourg is a unique blend of French and German culture having been passed back and forth between both countries over the last couple of centuries in a geo-political tug of war.
It was late on Friday night by the time my travel buddy and I arrived in Strasbourg and dropped our bags in our creaky but cosy hotel (Hotel Patricia, we paid £41 each for three nights in a triple room) after which we headed out for a short orientation. The majestic Strasbourg Cathedral dominated the evening skyline in a gothic silhouette. In full view, it is quite breathtaking and would be right at home in a creepy Tim Burton film.
The next day we bought a ‘Strasbourg Pass’ (18.90 EURO adult, 9.45 – 12.45 EURO children, available at the tourist information centre) which allows you to visit a number of sites and museums for free. We used our pass to visit the interesting Alsatian museum, dedicated to showcasing pre-industrial life in Alsace; went on the 70 minute boat trip with audio guide around the circumference of the city; climbed to the viewing platform of the Cathedral, which offers a picturesque panoramic of Strasbourg; and almost made use of the free bike hire until we found out that a deposit of 150 EURO is required. As neither my travel buddy nor I had enough confidence that we wouldn’t either crash or lose our bikes we decided it wasn’t worth the risk of not getting our deposit back. So we resigned ourselves to walking. Which was a blessing as walking is probably the best way to get around in Strasbourg as if you go any faster than a slow dawdle then you won’t have enough time to ogle at the many historic timber frame buildings and countless other architectural delights, particularly in the ‘Petit France’ quarter.
As we were on a budget, we chose not to pay for breakfast at the hotel. Instead, we got our breakfast from local boulangeries, patisseries and fromageries and sat on benches or walls and watched the world go by as we munched on fresh baguettes with cheese or pain au chocolates or traditional Alsation tarte flambées. This followed for pretty much every meal we had for the whole weekend, apart from the odd coffee or glass of beer here and there.
The greatest treat came when on our last day, when the city turned in to one big free music festival in celebration of the summer solstice. It was a thriving and buzzing day with a family friendly vibe. There were stages, sound systems and buskers popping up in every plaza, pavement and hidden backstreet all over the city. There was also an eclectic mix of food stalls which further flaunted Strasbourg’s fascinating blend of German and French cultures, with Frankfurters and Comté in equal amount.
Strasbourg is simply beautiful and has that perfect balance of being big enough to have plenty of sights to keep you busy for a few days yet still small enough to be easily accessible on foot. Whether you find a flight for £15 or £150, Strasbourg is a must.
Price for three nights and three days: