Old stones love keeps Strasbourg alive and kicking – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
On a totally different scale but with the same passion devoted people take care of Strasbourg’s heritage: on one side Deborah and Denis Jung an Alsatian couple screwed up their courage and restore life to a decaying 16th century mansion house and on the other the Church and the French State have been maintaining the Cathedral Notre Dame for a whole millennium.
“Le Bouclier d’Or”, the Golden Shield, is a 4-star hotel located in the “Petite France”, the historical district of Strasbourg with a stylish decoration and period furniture far away from how it looked like in 2009 when Deborah and Denis bought it. As it often happens and for mysterious reasons, old houses seem to irresistibly attract people whispering into their ears to come and live inside their walls. That’s what happened to the Jung: after just one visit they knew they had to buy this mansion to save it from a slow death and give it back its forgotten splendour. Almost overnight they gave up a 20-year long career as successful estate agents to find out that a genuine obstacle course had began! In spite of strong guaranties they had to fight with pusillanimous banks and with the endlessly pernickety French Civil Service sometimes taking them on the verge of giving up. Fortunately worries, sleepless nights and hard work were often offset by unexpected satisfactions. Once while reconditioning walls they were lucky enough to discover old frescoes hidden under several layers of paints. Among these frescoes the blazon of the Turkheims, an old noble Alsatian family, was identified by an historian and it was thus found that the Turkheim built the house in 1552. The house was sold several times before being bought by a tax collector in the 18th century. Tax collectors never were popular so during the French Revolution the house was plundered and wrecked by the sans-culottes and left in poor condition. Later it was turned into an investment property building poorly maintained and slowly decaying.
Today you wouldn’t recognize the house that was restored to its full splendour and turned into a comfortable luxury hotel, “a secret and precious place” as the Jung like to call it. It comes as no surprise that the hotel was awarded “Best Renovation of the Year” of Alsace in 2013. Deborah, Denis and his brother spent hours in antique shops and auction halls to find period Alsatian furniture and decoration objects as well as Renaissance and 18th century ones. They spent even more hours to meticulously restore them. Each of the 22 spacious bedrooms has its own decoration giving it a unique atmosphere: there are Alsatian bedrooms with typical wardrobes and painted chests that successfully avoid a kitsch provincial look while offering all the modern amenities you might expect in a 4-star hotel. The other bedrooms will take you into the boudoir of Marie-Antoinette with their precious and romantic 18th century decoration.
The Spa is located in the former cellar of the house with impressive columns supporting a stone arch-shaped vault. A Klafs sauna with Liftlight, a cold water bath, a steam room, a beautifully enamelled whirlpool and a rainfall and hydro-massage shower await you after a tiring day of visits in Strasbourg.
A buffet breakfast is served every morning in the 18th century dinning room and you will enjoy an appetizing and huge breakfast: breads, smoked salmon, hams and saucissons, cheeses, viennoiseries, including a delicious kugelhopf , tasty jams, many cakes and pastries… Alsatian hospitality at its best! Between two bites don’t miss to have a look at the frescoes artistically restored by Edgar Mahler an Alsatian craftsman who used traditional techniques to give them back their original glory. Sunday is time for brunch: whether you are staying at the hotel or just coming to the Bouclier d’Or for the occasion you will get a superb and tasty meal in the dinning room or on the sunny terrace during the summer months. A perfect time to relax with your family or friends and seize the moment!
From the Bouclier d’Or you will easily get by foot to the main places of interest in town. The Cathedral is only ten minutes walk and when you’ll reach it you will be struck by its height and its amazing lace-like façade cut into pink granite. The Cathedral was founded in 1015 and is 1000 years old this year, a great occasion to discover or re-discover this masterpiece of Gothic Art. All summer long very special events will allow you to enjoy the Cathedral like never before. From June 8 to 14 the visitors wearing a virtual reality headset “Oculus Rift” will move through a 3D model of the Cathedral getting to places that are usually closed to the public.
From June 25 to 27 a show created for the occasion will reconstruct the wedding of the Polish Princess Maria Leszczynska with Louis XV taking the viewer back to the 18th century and the splendour of the costumes and ceremonies of that time. There will also be a stone-cutters festival, a street arts festival, the fitting of a contemporary new stained-glass panel and many other events to celebrate this extraordinary anniversary.
But the key event of these celebrations will be a spectacular sound and light show from July 4 to September 20, 2015. The show is still a well-kept secret but should be up to the occasion since “Skertzo”, the most famous company promoting heritage and architecture through urban shows throughout Europe, will once more prove that technologies serve imagination!
Le Bouclier d’Or: 1 rue du Bouclier, Petite France- Strasbourg www.lebouclierdor.com
For special offers, directly get in touch with Deborah.
For more information to visit Strasbourg and the Cathedral:
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny