My Best Dining Experiences in Strasbourg, France

Sunday, 14 June 2020

A recent email from a couple I met in Strasbourg, France last year reminded me of one of my most unforgettable trips to date. Whilst I have already written about my awesome trip to the magical city of Strasbourg and the fairytale village of Colmar, I have yet to write about the restaurants that I visited in Strasbourg. 

Strasbourg (the capital of Alsace) is located at the border of Germany, therefore their cuisine is a combination of French and German. I have been to France a few times but I never had food like the food I had in Strasbourg. Alsatian cuisine is unique, hearty and generous. During our stay, I was eating out during daytime on my own, then J would join me for an early dinner after his conference. I stuffed myself with meat, bread and potatoes, with the occasional treat to our favourite ice cream place close to our hotel. I would definitely consider Strasbourg as one of the places that I would go back to for food, alongside New Zealand and Italy

1.  Le Clou - 3 Rue du Chaudron 
-  Apparently, anyone who travels to Alsace must eat at a "Winstub".  Basically, a Winstub is a traditional pub serving authentic Alsatian cuisine. It was the first thing that we did on our arrival to Strasbourg. We didn't have any restaurant in mind, so we wandered around Grand Ile and came across Le Clou, which is located in a rather romantic narrow alley. The restaurant just opened at that time so we had the pleasure to be seated where we wanted to seat. Le Clou gave us the standard of restaurant service in Strasbourg. The staff was very nice and obliging.

As I don't always have escargot when I go to France, I made sure that I had it in Strasbourg. It was not that cheap at €13.50 for six pieces, but it was delicious. Then for my mains, I opted for the very soft and satisfying traditional knuckle of ham wadele (€19.90). J on the other hand, had the onion soup (€8.70) and the authentic Brotwurst with Sauerkraut (€15.90). The serving was very generous and the food all in all, was very flavourful. I was very happy to have had our first meal at Le Clou.

2. Le Tire-Bouchon- 5 Rue des Tailleurs de Pierre
- J and I had the shock of our lives when our food was served at Le Tire-Bouchon. We both ordered their specialty dish without realising that one order was enough for two. The Baeckeoffe mit Drei Sorten Fleisch (€20.90) which basically means a casserole with three types of meat (lamb, pork, beef) and potatoes was apparently cooked for 8 hours. It was perfectly cooked to say the least and it tasted brilliantly. Although I didn't finish the whole dish as it was too much, I made sure that I ate all the meat particularly the pig's foot.:) The restaurant is located close to the Strasbourg Cathedral, so it is quite touristy in the area. However, I didn't feel that the restaurant was a tourist-trap. If anything, it was authentic and traditional. Definitely a good place to dine in whilst in Strasbourg.

3. Maison Kammerzell- 16 Place de la Cathedrale 
- Located next to the Strasbourg Cathedral, you might think that this restaurant is a tourist trap, and you are probably right. I went to the restaurant the day before my birthday to try their most raved Choucroute aux trois Poissons (3-sort fish €25.90). Although people have complained about the rude and slow service, I didn't experience it at all, hence the restaurant is on my list. The salmon, smoked cod and trout (I believe) was served on a Sauerkraut. It was buttery and truly delicious.

4. Au Pont Corbeau- 21 Quai Saint-Nicholas
- I cannot recall how we found this restaurant but I have a clear recollection of the flank of beef (€18.20)that I had for the mains. I have had bad experiences with well done steaks in the past, so I now normally ask for medium rare. The flank of beef was perfectly pink, juicy and tender. The serving was very generous for the price to be honest. It was served with pan-friend potatoes and salad. J went for the beef mignon (the price escapes me) which he also enjoyed. 

5. Le Petit Glacier-  3 Rue Austerlitz Proche de la Place du Corbeau 
- We visited this dessert place a few times whilst in Strasbourg and each visit was such a pleasant treat. I mean, how could you not possibly enjoy really amazing desserts? To be honest, I prefer simple desserts. However, I couldn't resist the over the top desserts at Le Petit Glacier. My choice of dessert was the very refreshing La Hawaï (€10.50) which was beautifully presented, so it was difficult for me to start eating it. Hehe. Basically, it is a collection of exotic fruits with passion fruit and mango sorbet, coconut ice cream and mango whipped cream. It sounds a lot but trust me, it is just enough for one. Well, if you eat a lot like me. Meanwhile, J's favourite was the La Chocolatiere (€9.30) - a mountain of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, cold chocolate, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. It was heavenly! 

6. Bristot Coco- 8 Rue de Ecurie
- We went to dinner here on the eve of my birthday. I came from Colmar that day and J finished his conference on time, so we had an early dinner. It was good timing actually because the restaurant was not even open when we arrived. Although we had to wait for a few minutes,  it also only meant that we could choose wherever we wanted to be seated. So, always our best choice- al fresco! The British lady who served us was friendly and chatty. The food was served in a timely manner. The quality of food was definitely good. We had a three-course meal and each meal was very satisfying to say the least. For starter, we shared a burratina with nuts and cherry (€10). For the mains, I had the very tender Entrecôte de Veau (€28). To be honest, we would have been fine with two courses, however their dessert menu was very appealing so we had the fondant au chocolat (€10). It was the best way to end our dinner experience at Bristot Coco.

7.  1741- 22 Quai des Bateliers 
- My birthday lunch in 1741 was an unforgettable one, and it remains one of the best birthday celebrations ever- more so because I had lunch on my own. It was the only second time that I actually dined in a restaurant alone on my birthday. The first time was unplanned. My then friend basically stood me up. We are no longer seeing each other if you're wondering if we are still friends. Haha.  Anyway, back to my 1741 story. I have been to many French restaurants before, but I never felt so intimidated as I did when I entered the elegant restaurant, mainly because I was alone. But I felt a lot better once I was seated. 

I was given a table in a quiet room as I requested, with only 3 tables set up for 5 guests. I was given the middle table which was an added bonus. Once seated, I was offered a small stool to put my bag on- a first restaurant experience. The food was not mind blowing, but it was excellent nonetheless. I had their 5-course meal for €105, without drinks. The whole experience made it totally worth it. The service was very professional and attentive. The company was warm and friendly. Unfortunately, the other guests only spoke French, so it was difficult to make conversation. They attempted to speak to me in English, as I did to them in French (with the few words I learnt from my previous travels to France). In the end, we used google translate.  

What made this birthday lunch extra special was the couple I met at the restaurant. After I blew my birthday cake, the couple bought me a small glass of Marc d' Alsace Gewurtztraminer, which apparently is a popular drink in Alsace. I drank it reluctantly, but I finished the glass.  Then as we were leaving, the lady handed me their business card and asked me to call them so I could have coffee with them at their house. It was so unfortunate that I didn't have any more time to see them again. However, I sent them a thank you card before we left Strasbourg and wrote my email address on the card. A few days later when I was back in London, I received an email from them. We have not stopped emailing each other since. They are actually the reasons why I am writing this blog right now.

8. Pierre Bois Et Feu- 6 Rue du Bain-aux-Roses
- J chose this restaurant for my birthday dinner, and he made a very good choice. It was a different experience altogether as I had my first flat iron steak- literally. And when I say literally, my steak was actually cooked using a charcoal flat iron box. It was very fascinating to watch the whole thing as I have never seen such a thing in my life. The whole experience was memorable. We approximately paid €35 per person which was not too bad.

9. Le Purgatoire- 34 Rue de Zurich
- Yet, another first in my food adventure. To be honest, I didn't expect my food to come in a tin can, but I tell you, it was the best canned food I ever had. I wanted to take some home but the waiter was not very accommodating, so I didn't take the courage to ask if they were selling them. It was so delicious and really cheap!

10. Caffe-Gelateria- 11 Place de la Cathédrale
- Everyday for a week, I was going to this cafe in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral to get my morning coffee. I would sit there for an hour or so, just people watching. Tourists flooded the area to visit the Cathedral at 0900 sharp. By this time, I have been to the church (they open at 0800)already so I didn't have to queue up. It was a good spot to enjoy the beauty of the intricately designed gothic cathedral.

With the current situation that we are in, I am unsure as to when we can safely travel again. In fact, I have no plans on travelling at all this year, except for one important travel I have to make once the travel bans are lifted. Until then, all I can do is relive the memories we have made before the world was turned upside down by the pandemic. Until then, we must stay safe.


My Don'ts In The Time Of Corona Lockdown

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Three weeks ago, I finally went out of the house after almost eight weeks of voluntary confinement due to the Corona Virus. That was eight weeks of not going out of the flat at all. Whilst many people expressed how much they missed the outside world, I was genuinely happy being inside the house. Probably because I am part introvert. If I didn't have to go to work, I would have preferred to stay at home for the rest of this pandemic.

Whilst in lockdown, I have more opportunities to reflect on life. Yes, living in the time of Corona Virus is strange and there are a lot of things that are sacrificed. I hear some people complaining about how inconvenient it is for them not to be able to do the things that they would normally do otherwise. As for myself, the only thing that I am really disappointed about is the fact that I am unsure as to when I am able to go home and visit my parents again. I was meant to go home at the end of April (as a surprise), however the Philippines banned all travels at the very early stage of the pandemic. Things happen for a reason for sure, and I am praying that my parents will remain healthy until I see them again.

Of course, a lot of lessons are also learned during this pandemic. Staying at home 24/7 has not been so easy for some, but it comes so natural for myself and J. Nothing much has changed except for the fact that we can't go out. Well, we can really for essentials but we choose not to. Staying at home really doesn't mean that we stop doing the things that we love doing. It has been so easy for us to find ways to entertain ourselves and yes, to continue living the life we have always lived- although modified. I have been happy staying at home and this is because I:

1. Don't Stop Moving
- It has been so tempting to just sit around and do nothing whilst on lockdown, but I know that this would not benefit me in any way at all. Luckily, I have been following a few workouts on youtube for quite a while now so I motivated myself to continue doing those exercises on a daily basis. In addition to that, we have a few gym equipment in the flat which has been really helpful. We live in a flat with no garden or balcony, so we make use of whatever space we have to ensure that we don't stop moving. As I am not keen on running outside at the moment, I use the stairs to do my cardio exercises and also Fitness Blender's "Fat Burning Cardio Workout". Other workout videos I follow are: Vicky Justiz (for abs), Chichi Health Fitness (abs and lower body workout), Bright Side (abs) and Love Sweat Fitness (for arms). Exercise, no matter how light (it can mean just walking inside the house), has helped me maintain my physical and mental health during the lockdown.

2. Don't Stop Learning
- Just like the rest of the world, I learned how to bake a banana cake during the lockdown. I have always wanted to learn how to bake, but because I am quite impatient when it comes to following precise baking instructions, I never really took it seriously. Until of course the lockdown. I have baked a couple of successful banana breads since and I am keen to continue baking more, so watch this space.

I also found a free online course via Coursera, The Science of Well-being which was developed by Yale University. This course talks about how we can increase our happiness and how we can create more productive habits. I really enjoyed the course, so if you are interested, just check it out.

The highlight of my "Learning in the Time of Corona" was teaching my weakest subjects to a couple of smart kids. I volunteered to help a couple of my friends with home-schooling, but did not expect that the little humans would ask me to teach them the subjects that were not really my cup of tea when I was in school- geography and history. It appeared that I had so much more to learn about these subjects. I am grateful for Ethan (10 year-old) and Poppy (5 year-old) for giving me the opportunity to teach and learn at the same time.

Currently, I am busy learning about my job and the people I work with so perhaps when I am more settled, I will find more courses online.

3. Don't Stop Caring
- Posting anything on social media during this pandemic has been quite tricky for me. I am conscious of what many people are going through right now and therefore, I have been very careful on what I share on facebook and instagram. I refrained from posting any food or material things until I have done my part in helping those who were and still are in need of help. It goes without saying that "charity begins at home". It was my brother's idea to give a little help to our distant relatives first and foremost. My family distributed relief goods to at least 25 families. It may not be a lot, but I'm sure every little helps. Also, I donated two weeks of my lunch allowance to "Meals for the NHS" and my weekly coffee allowance to "Fashion for Frontliners". Every now again, I leave a little something for our cleaner just to say thank you for what they do. Most importantly, now more than ever before, I make sure that I stay in touch with my family and friends.

4. Don't Stop Living
- Being in lockdown doesn't mean I also have to stop living. Whilst I am unable to have brunch or afternoon tea with my friends, I ensure that every now and again, I indulge myself with things that I would otherwise do outside our home. Besides, I have always associated living my life with being at home, so the lockdown doesn't really make a lot of difference to me, even if it means I can't go out to eat at restaurants or cafes. This is because life to me, is more than those things. It is spending time with my loved ones most of all- be it physically or virtually. This is one thing that I have been consistently doing during this lockdown. 

Honestly though, living a life for me means being grateful for everything that I have, caring for the people I love, helping those who are in need (in any way I can), being sensitive to what other people are going through and being kind to everyone that I come across with. 

5. Don't Stop Believing
- Just like any other challenge, this too shall pass. I believe that one day soon, we will be able to see and hug our family and friends once again. But until then, we must stay positive. Above all, we must stay safe.

My love and prayers to one and all.  Please take care.


How I Coped With My Mother's COVID-19 Scare

Friday, 1 May 2020

On April 16, my mother was rushed to the hospital due to a 3-day history of fever, cough and body malaise. Although it could have been just a common flu, these days it will always be more than that. She was immediately put under the PUM category (Persons Under Monitoring). A chest x-ray was performed which confirmed Pneumonia. Everything happened so quickly, we didn't even have enough time to think about logistics. My sister-in-law brought my mother to the Rural Health Unit to be assessed initially, but then she was referred to the hospital straight away. My sister-in-law accompanied my mother to the hospital and never went home until my mother was discharged 13 days later. 

We immediately asked my father and my niece to self-isolate. Whilst it would have been easy for me to ask publicly (via social media) for prayer warriors to pray for my mother's fast recovery, I chose to keep this ordeal privately on this occasion. Knowing how misinformed and judgemental some people are in our town, I didn't want my mother's situation to cause alarm to the public. And worse, I didn't want ignorant people to discriminate my family. This is why I chose to go through this very unsettling and worrying experience silently.

It was indeed two weeks of utmost fear and uncertainty. I have always believed that this virus is real since the beginning, however it became even more real when it unfortunately became too close to home. My anxiety was heightened, I couldn't focus on anything else. I couldn't sleep for two weeks. Guilt penetrated my heart once more. I haven't seen my mother in five years and it hurt so much. 

Thinking of how suspected COVID-19 patients are being managed here, I am thankful that in the Philippines, patients are not left on their own until they are confirmed positive. This somehow gave me reassurance. My sister-in-law was allowed to stay with my mother whilst awaiting for her swab result. You see, my mother and my sister-in-law do not have a perfect relationship, but historically, they have always been there for each other in sickness and in health. My sister-in-law has always taken our place (my brother and I) in looking after our parents. And for that, I am beyond grateful. I know I can never repay her. 

On the 17th of April, a swab sample was taken from my mother. She reported to me that she was feeling better. She was apparently being treated with intravenous antibiotics and some medications for her cough. Her repeat Chest X-ray was clear. This gave me so much hope.

Whilst my mother was making a steady progress, I was getting more and more frustrated because the result of her swab was taking so long. I was beginning to worry about their mental health. But it was just me worrying of course. My mother and sister-in-law are mentally and emotionally strong, and although my mother can be quite a pain sometimes, my sister-in-law has learned how to turn every annoying situation into some sort of an entertainment. So, they were okay. Well, sort of.

Then another bad news broke. As I was beginning to feel less anxious about my mother's condition, I received a text from my first cousin, who I treat like a brother. He has not been well for over a week. He had classic symptoms of COVID-19- fever, chills, body malaise, cough and difficulty of breathing, so he was taken to the hospital. I felt  what hundreds of thousands of people whose loved ones were taken to the hospital alone must have felt during this horrible time. It was totally heartbreaking. 

The last two weeks, I prayed so hard for my mother's and my cousin's COVID-19 tests to be negative, and for both of them to be discharged home safely. I privately asked my religious friends to help me pray for their fast recovery. I read the Bible for the first time in a very long time. I read self-help books. The Secret by Rhonda Byrne helped me change the way I think about the whole situation. I started creating positive pictures in my head- both my mother and my cousin home and well. The law of attraction doesn't work overnight, but I was determined.  I tried to think only positive thoughts. It was hard, but I tried. I tried my very best to fight my anxiety. I claimed their recovery. Thirteen days later, my mother's test came back negative. The day after, my cousin's test also came back negative.

Things could have been worse, hence I am beyond thankful to the Lord for the gift of healing. Of course this unforgettable experience has taught me a lot of lessons that surely will affect my decision-making in the future. No more excuses is all I can say for now.

And if there is one other thing that this whole ordeal has positively done in my life,  it's the fact that it made my family closer and stronger than ever before. For the first time ever, we created a family group chat. The different time zones allowed us to keep the chat room going 24 hours a day. We sent funny messages, photos, and  we teased each other to lift our spirits up. I watched the world clock like crazy. I didn't sleep until I have spoken to both my parents. I called both of them twice a day, everyday. For the first time in what it felt like forever, I said I love you to my father and he said I love you back. It's not as if we don't love each other, it's just that we are not used to saying it to each other. I cried when that happened. 

The thing is, my mother and my cousin were not the only ones I was worried about. I was worried about my sister-in-law who was on her own caring for my mother. I was worried about my father, who is diabetic and was alone in the house. I was worried about my niece, who was also alone in the other house most nights. My anxiety was very real. I felt so helpless.

The situation only became easier because we also had help from other relatives. I have cousins in the Philippines who patiently checked up on my father and my niece everyday. They ran errands for my family. They were there for and with us every step of the way. It honestly would have been more difficult for us without their help. And for that, I will forever be indebted to them.

My mother and my cousin are both home now and are recovering well. We are indeed very blessed to have been gifted with their recovery. I am beyond grateful. I thank those who fervently prayed for their healing. I thank those who regularly checked up on me to make sure I was okay. I thank God for answering our prayers. I thank God for the gift of life. I thank God for everything.

One thing that I learned from this ordeal? In difficult times like this, all you need is your family - biological and/or chosen. And I thank God for mine- imperfect as we truly are, my family was all I needed to get through this.

Please stay safe. Things will get better soon. Godspeed.


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