During your travels you often come across charming and quirky places that are either reduced to a footnote or left out of the guidebook all together. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I doubt I’m treading any new ground here, but I thought I would share some of the more unusual shops, locations and events I have had the pleasure of visiting. Let’s start with a treasure trove for big kids and animal-lovers alike: Strasbourg’s La Quête de l’Ours.
During my language studies I did a translation internship at the Council of Europe, one of the arteries of European legislation, so of course the thing I remember most about Strasbourg is a shop stuffed to the gills with cuddly animals.
Not just any cuddly animals, mind; not only are they extremely realistic, but some of the species on display could rival a specialist zoo. Take the little chap in the top right of the photo. He’s known as a coatimundi, and his likeness is pretty spot on if you compare him with the real deal:
If this wasn’t enough, there were life-size animals too, like this stag, stork and antelope:
and this giraffe and orangutan. My apologies for the poor quality shots here; I had to grab these on my phone when the camera ran out of battery.
For those who couldn’t fit such beasts in their cars or on the public trams, there were dinkier varieties too:
and for daydreamers, a couple of creatures you would never find in a zoo anywhere:
Strangely enough there were zero children in the shop when I visited, just other adults like myself struck down with nostalgia or by simple admiration for the handiwork. La Quête de l’Ours (The Bear’s Quest) doesn’t make them on site, it merely pools good quality animal toys from companies like Hansa and helps restore dog-eared and priceless teddy bears, but it’s a veritable menagerie and one I would have happily tried to sneak out under my arm.
Fortunately for my wallet, after I had stumbled to the till with about five different animals in tow, my card decided there and then to stop working for no reason whatsoever. On a Saturday, in France, when none of the banks are open. Glossing over the stress and worry caused by being in a foreign country with no access to additional funds, in the end I was only able to rescue this little fellow.
This grown-ups’ Noah’s ark is a lovely diversion and can be found in Rue de la Nuée Bleue, near to the town hall and promenade with its chess players and wooden horse.
The link to the website is below (in French); my wallet continues to breathe easy as sadly there is no online shop, but I defy you to leave without grabbing a souvenir from here if you visit.