Escapade automnale : l'Alsace
There is a region in France that represents the best things we have all other the country: good food, good wine, and lovely houses. People there know how to enjoy life but they also know how to work hard. They’ve had a difficult past (once French, then German then French again) but they’ve overcome it all. They live with the seasons and definitely know how to celebrate them. Even more exceptional is wherever you go, you meet only friendly and cheerful people. Quite idyllic, isn’t it?
You can easily reach Alsace in about 2.5 hours from Paris by train but I prefer driving so I can plan a little road trip. Actually, the real reason I drive is so that I can bring back a bunch of nice, speciality items: Christine Ferber jams, Alsatian-made tableclothes and napkins (the famous kelsch material), Christmas ornaments, hand-made pottery, incredible wine (Gewurztramniner, Riesling) to name a few. There are many beautiful villages that are worth the visit and that can only be reached by car. Alsace has many villages that have the label « Plus beau village de France » (most beautiful village in France). Alsatian villages are well-known for their beautiful fairytale-like houses framed by an abundance of geraniums. One thing Alsace is also known for in France and all over Europe, is the fabulous Christmas markets that usually start at the end of November. So, if you want to visit them, plan ahead as the hotels are usually crowded!
I have been going to Alsace for the past 20 years yet, I have never been to an Alsatian Christmas market! But, I have heard that the experience is really worth it: the decorations are superb and the illuminations breathtaking. After all, those villages really seem to come from another time so imagine what they look like at Christmas. They serve mulled wine and delicious gingerbreads (I recommend a nice shop in Strasbourg at the end of this post) in wooden cabins. The products you find at the Christmas markets are strictly controlled. In other words, they have kept their authenticity. We’ve all had the bad experience of Christmas markets where you find products from China, spices from India… this doesn’t feel very local nor very Christmasy in my opinion… If you can’t visit during Christmas time, you can still buy Christmas ornaments in a shop that is open called Un Noël en Alsace – it is open all year round. I was there last time with a dear friend of mine and we had a very nice time buying Christmas souvenirs in this cute little shop.
If you have time, you can also cross the border and visit the Basel Christmas market (I really love this city) in Switzerland for another charming and festive experience.
At other times of the year, one of the best ways to discover the region is through the Wine Route (or Route des Vins in French). You can choose to drive either to the South or to the North as you discover pretty villages and very good vineyards along the road. One major attraction in Alsace is having lunch in a quaint Winstub. It is similar to an old tavern with a very rustic Alsatian decor where you can eat local food such as Choucroute (sauerkraut), Flammekueche, Baeckeoffe and more… before heading to a wine tasting workshops in the afternoon.
A MINI GUIDE
Other things to do
WHAT TO SEE
City of Colmar
Haut-Koenigsbourg medieval castle
WHERE TO SHOP
Organic shop held by monks
Potteries at Soufflenheim