FRANCE- STRASBOURG as our base, 3 nights.
- About 1.5 hour train from Basel to Strasbourg .
We stayed at the Hotel Gutenburg, which an OP recommended, as all of the RS' recommendations were booked by June. This hotel was a block from the Cathedral, so has a prime location. The breakfast was adequate, but they offered complimentary Gluhwein from about 11am on, so who can remember the breakfast???
The Cathedral and central market area is about a 15 minute walk from the train station; we just followed the steady line of people. Due to the tragic events of the past, there is security at all the entry points to the old town area, starting mid-morning; our luggage and backpacks were searched. Also starting around mid-morning, there is no taxi/car access to the old town area, as it becomes pedestrian only.
At our first sightings of the area around the Cathedral, I gasped in awe as if I was five-years old: it was so beautifully decorated! The buildings decorate all up along their outside wall. And the lighting- each of the pedestrian ally/walkways heading into the Cathedral area all have waves of lighting hanging across the buildings, and each is different! Saying it's spectacular is an understatement. There are at least 11 xmas markets situated throughout the old town to visit.
We toured the Cathedral [free] and climbed the 300+ steps to the tower [ 8 Euros], overlooking the city. It was a climb well worth the effort. Try to climb the tower early, as there is a security search, and once a line forms, it moves slowly. We also enjoyed a morning walk along the river, which was beautiful, quiet, and peaceful.
The VINO ROUTE [all day] tour of the towns of Colmar, Riquewihr, Obernai, and a winery was incredibly well done and worth it [$150 USD.] Marc, who leads the small tour [one van] is a local who is personable and quite knowledgeable of the area. The tour is well-organized and a quality experience. In addition to the xmas markets and the wine info, he pointed out the storks that are native to the area, and their unusual-looking nests.
The French transportation strike began on the day we were scheduled to leave France. In spite of all my research, I never thought to check for French labor strikes; this one was scheduled six weeks in advance, and affected trains, planes, buses, trams. It was by accident that we heard about this strike. It was Marc, from VINO ROUTE, who gave us a functional solution to our problem: taxi to the Kehl, Germany, train station, about 15 minutes away. Remarkably, this worked quite smoothly: the taxi showed up, early, and did not inflate prices. We exited France to Germany without a problem, but with a desire to return to this area to explore the beautiful countryside, perhaps in warmer weather!