Mother-daughter day in Strasbourg
On Mother’s Day 2015, I called Mom to make sure she received the flowers I had ordered and to remind her that we’d celebrate soon. Twenty-six days later, I threw my arms around my jet-lagged mom at the Frankfurt airport. The next weekend, we went to Strasbourg, France for an overnight mother-daughter getaway that I had been awaiting for what seemed like forever.
Strasbourg part une
My husband and I had taken my mom and brother to Strasbourg three years prior on a Sunday evening in December. We had been awestruck by the elegant decorations, numerous markets and 100-foot-tall Christmas tree, concluding that Strasbourg was worthy of the self-proclaimed title as the Capital of Christmas.
While wandering the cobblestoned streets of the old town, we came across the Carré d’Or, a pedestrian- only four-street shopping zone dedicated to two of my favorite things — gourmet French food and bling. It was pretty obvious to strangers that I was my mother’s daughter as we paused simultaneously, our eyes glancing from stunning statement necklaces to dangly chandelier earrings and stacks of bangles in boutique windows. Everything was closed that night, so I would need to bring Mom back another day.
Strasbourg part deux
The sun was shining when Mom and I reached our hotel in Strasbourg last June. After a team effort to park my SUV in the tiny garage of a three-star hotel in the old town, we headed on foot to one of my favorite restaurants.
La Cloche à Fromage has a six-foot-tall cloche (bell-shaped glass dome) covering a three-tiered platter of more than 80 cheeses. We sipped cool white wine on the patio, listened to the chiming bells on the nearby Gothic cathedral and ate cheese-infused meals. Mom had a plate of vibrant yellow and red heirloom tomatoes slices topped with burrata and chorizo alongside a shot of gazpacho. My dish of smoked salmon came with fluffy whipped cream and Chaource cheese, white asparagus and potato pancakes.
Our next stop was the Strasbourg Cathedral, one of the world’s tallest and most famous churches. It was empty, save for a small gaggle of tourists admiring the elaborate astronomical clock that dominates the area to the right of the altar.
Then it was off to the Carré d’Or for some retail therapy. We bought jams, salted caramel and wine, then popped into Isore to look at reasonably priced jewelry, clutches and scarves. A few streets over, I was overwhelmed at the classy L’Artisan Parfumeur, a well-known French perfume shop boasting a collection of jewelry from all styles, materials and designers.
For a break, we strolled to La Petite France, a charming medieval quarter of half-timbered houses overlooking the Ill River. We ate light, fluffy French-style cheesecake at What the Cake and took selfies in front of the Maison des Tanneurs, a 16th century tannery turned restaurant, before heading back toward the cathedral for dinner reservations.
I couldn’t wait to have dinner at La Fleur de Chine, a highly recommended hidden gem serving authentic Asian food just a few feet from La Cloche à Fromage. The setting sun cast a bright yellow hue over the cathedral tower as we savored the house specialty, Peking duck, a centuries old dish originating from Beijing, China. It arrived as two courses: the crispy skin was folded inside crepes, and the tender meat was served in two sauces, one sweet, the other spicy. We ate until we were way past full because it was extraordinary.
On the walk to our hotel, Mom thanked me for dinner and said that she had dreamed of trying Peking duck since she was younger than me. She explained that not long after she got married, she joined a gourmet food club, composed primarily of world-traveling professors who worked with my father. Inspired, she ordered a fine-dining culinary magazine and came across glossy full-page photos of Peking duck in Beijing.
That night, I had fulfilled a 40-year-long dream for my mom without even knowing it. I am forever thankful that I could give that gift — she gave me the world 30-something years ago and has been selfless ever since.