Monday, September 4, 2017

Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg (population 280,00) ranks as one of my favorite cities in Europe. I've been here multiple times and my affection has to do with Strasbourg's past. Wars between Germany and France have seen ownership of this region (Alsace) ping-pong between the two. Hence, the place feels like you're in France but, at the same time there's the German influence.
 The Old Town area is full of beautiful medieval half-timbered buildings.
 Canals meander through.
 Medieval towers and bridges.
So, as you should know by now I'm a big, big fan of super-star Vauban, the famous French military engineer.  Between 1686-1690 Vauban Dam was built in Strasbourg's Old Town. This defensive work was to repel any invasion by opening up the gates and flooding the outlying area--hindering the enemy. It's still intact! Successfully being used in 1870 to thwart an attack.
Behind this palace looms Strasbourg Cathedral (466 feet tall). Between 1647-1874 this sandstone Gothic church reigned as the world's tallest building.

According to what I had read, Vauban's citadel (fortress) encircled Strasbourg in the 1600's AND, had been completely demolished. Turns out not to be true as I cycle past a park and come across parts of its fortifications.
More of the citadel's walls.
This water basin in named after Vaudan.
This port storage facility is also named after Vauban.
Those of you who watch PBS shows, including the British drama Downton Abbey, will remember all those Viking River Cruise ads. Here's one of their boats docked near town.
Did you know Strasbourg and NOT Brussels is the official seat of the European Parliament? What's even more bizarre is that they meet here in Strasbourg--Once a month for only four days! This is the front part of the EU Parliament building (2.4 million square feet).
This is a rear view of the massive EU Parliament structure.
This is the old EU parliament complex located across from the new building. As you may or may not know, Brussels, Belgium is where parliament does all the work and so, once a month over 5,000 members of parliament, bureaucrats, lobbyists etc... decamp to Strasbourg for FOUR days. Of course, Strasbourg loves this gravy train arrangement because it brings lots of moola into the city (hotels double their rates). Members of parliament have voted to stop this nonsense but, the 28 EU member countries have to be unanimous in a vote and France won't agree as it likes having its hand in the pie. The estimated yearly cost of this monthly move to Strasbourg: $150 million.
One of many EU buildings in Strasbourg.
After Strasbourg I cycled to Baden-Baden, Germany, one of the grandest spa towns in Europe.  I've posted pictures before of the place before.
German's love their beer gardens and this one on Baden-Baden's main shopping street is very colorful.
Another view of the beer garden.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Harrogate and Leeds, England

Harrogate (population 80,000) is a famous spa town located between York and Leeds. The sick and the wealthy have been coming to Harrogate since the 17th century to drink its waters and, soak in its baths.  The complex above houses the Royal Baths as well as Harrogate's visitor center.
Harrogate has some of the highest property prices in England.  It also repeatedly ranks as "the happiest place to live" in Britain. Well-kept streets are the norm here.
Tourism is big in Harrogate and it's also the third largest conference/exhibition center in England. Lots of hotels in town but quite a few are well past their "use by"date. This is the Majestic Hotel, it must have been something 100 years ago or even 40 years ago. Can't believe how rundown it is. Must be some kind of classic car group getting together--which explains the old Rolls Royces parked out front.
 That's the Crown Hotel on the right--another hotel way past its prime.
 Several beautiful parks dot Harrogate's city center.
Leeds, population 781,000, is the largest legal and financial center in the UK after London. Leeds City Hall was built in 12885.
Victoria Quarter is a three block high-end shopping area with buildings datings from the early 1900's.
 Skylight connecting buildings in Victoria Quarter.
 Built in 1863, the Leeds Corn Exchange Building has been turned into a shopping center.
 Interior of Corn Exchange.
Another inside view of Corn Exchange.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

National Railway Museum (York, England)

Wow, if you like trains you're in train heaven here as the National Railway Museum houses over 100 locomotives, over 300 items of rolling stock (passenger carriages) and warehouses full of train memorabilia spread over 20 acres.
This monster-size locomotive was built in England but shipped over to China where it was a workhorse for many years.

Passenger carriages used by English royalty are displayed. Though you can't go in the carriages you can peer in the windows--however my photos taken through the windows had too much glare.
 Make no mistake, the furnishings inside the carriages are opulent--fit for a king or queen.

 So much train memorabilia to see. One could spend days here.

There's an elevated walkway going across this room so visitors can watch work being done on locomotives.