Strasbourg is located in the north-eastern region of France, in the Rhine Valley. It is difficult to imagine that this bustling city was evacuated in 1940 and for 10 months it remained completely empty. Today, it is the official seat of the European Parliament and hosts many important European institutions.
The region experiences a semi-continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. The best time to visit starts towards the last stretch of spring i.e. May and extends to early autumn i.e. late September. In these months, temperatures are pleasant enough to enjoy the outdoors, though the occasional thunderstorm may play spoilsport.
Its location along the French-German border means that influences of both cultures are evident here. Starsbourg’s historical city centre was the first one to be entirely classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This coupled with its beautiful natural environs and year-round cultural activities has made it one of France’s most visited destinations.
A Work Of Art
Thirty-eight rooms by thirty-eight artists; the conundrum at Hotel Graffalgar is to choose one from the options at hand. Each room was assigned to a graphic artist with a carte blanche to articulate the design and the décor as he or she pleases. In Room 403, the inspiration is landscapes blurred by snow or mist and the result is a dreamy space in a muted colour scheme.
Room 103 on the other hand draws inspiration from cats; here the walls are covered in vibrant graphics based on the symbolic relevance of cats. One room is a graphic representation of all that an artist packs in his suitcase while the walls of another carry an artist’s interpretation of a house of ill-repute. The concept ensures a unique ambience for every room and the diversity is dramatic.
The blend of ideas continues in the common spaces, corridors and stairwells. For these spaces the artists were again not given any specific guidelines except for one directive which was to work together. The result is a space filled with elements each of which draws the eye, yet at the same time come together in a cohesive fashion.
The hotel extends its concept from a mere design perspective to a functional one by serving as a space for performances and workshops. Hotel Graffalgar is one of those unique hotels that proves to be more than just a place to rest the head on a pillow.
Reaching For The Sky
Amidst the twisty lanes and timber-framed houses in Strasbourg’s old town, towers the Strasbourg Cathedral. At a height of 142 metres, the Cathedral’s single bell tower topped with the spire is visible for miles along the plains and from the Black Forest across the border. No wonder then that Goethe described it as a “sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God”.
Built from the sandstone from the nearby Vosges Mountains, the Cathedral has a distinctive pink tone. The façade presents the first view of the building and stuns visitors with the intricate statues that are sheltered in the portals and the gigantic rose window at the centre. The façade is an indication of the majestic interiors graced by 4600 stained glass panels, the 19th century astronomical clock which continues to tell the time and the many sculptures and paintings.
Living In The Past
It would not be uncommon to step into the store, Polychrome, pause and wonder if one had stepped through a portal to a living room from half a century ago. In fact, that would be the desired effect. The city’s vintage specialist, the space is packed with décor from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
Furniture, lamps and lights, and accessories like flip clocks, candlesticks, liquor sets, dinnerware, etc pay homage to that era. The collection made up of established design names as well as painstakingly sourced small vintage items, makes Polychrome an ideal venue to pick up something to perk up a corner or two of your house.
Hold Your Horses
Footsteps have replaced the sound of hooves in Louis XV’s stud farm, with the transformation of the 18th century building into Hotel Les Haras. The erstwhile royal stables now accommodate the Brasserie Les Haras.
The high ceiling and open layout accentuates the expanse of the space and draws attention to the elliptical bar in the centre of the room. A dramatic spiral stairway carved from wood leads to the original hayloft, which has now been converted to the main dining area. The furniture upholstered in natural leather and the earthy colour palette draw reference to the original purpose of the building.
Text By Himali Kothari