Visiting Alsace Villages
Having a vague idea of the beauty that we were about to encounter in Colmar, the town where we were staying for the Alsace section of our French road trip, it was a little surprising that once you are away from the ancient colourful town centre-ville, the rest of this UNESCO listed french neighbourhood is pretty darn ugly! Every single house is different and nobody seems to regulate these architectural eyesores. And, the dog dirt!
Still, when we’d reached the old town which everyone travels to see, we were instantly transformed to an era of damsels and woodcutters, where teapots talk and neglected princes are masquerading as beasts and confiding in candlesticks. Walt Disney came here on his jollybobs? You don’t say! However, and this always seems to happen to us… we went to Colmar and Colmar was closed!
It was Monday, apparently a day the French like to just take a Sabbatical, maybe to clean up the weekend dog-muck!? I really felt for the hordes of Japanese tourists that had travelled 6 hours on a coach from Paris just to see this little Beauty and the Beast film location. With all these locked shops and stacked chairs, Colmar was going to be pretty uninspiring today.
On the other hand, having made the trip to France in our own car, we could change our Alsace itinerary whenever we pleased and decided a little drive into the countryside was in order. I’d marked a few castles and pretty towns on Google maps before our trip so we had plenty to be getting on with.
Our first stop was Château du Haut-Kœnisbourg. From a distance yesterday it had looked pretty impressive, and in fact the history behind it was. But once we were up there on its hill, scouring the land below that has regularly passed between France and Germany, the castle itself was a little boring. Now, if you want to see beautiful castles, hang on for our Loire section of this road trip diary.
Still, the views were perfect and what lay ahead that day was going to out-do Haut-Kœnisbourg 12 times over.
Alsace is stunning. I mean, exceptionally stunning. Beautiful rolling hills of vineyards spin you into colourful ancient towns (all giving the famous Colmar a run for their money). We had no idea this would be what we’d find. In fact, I’m ashamed to say that we were completely unaware of what this region had to offer and felt a little annoyed at ourselves for not realising it was so famous as a wine region.
As we drove from one beautiful town to another, Bergheim to Ribeauville, Ribeauville to Kaysersberg Vignoble, it became quite clear we’d totally underestimated Alsace. Ideally you’d need a good week to really explore this area and all it offered, taking advantage of wine tastings and vineyards. I was perplexed – why had I not read about these Alsace gems? And, how come nobody has ever mentioned this extraordinarily scenic area to us before? Still, we plodded on in our state of bewilderment and tried to make the most of the time we had.
We had Tarte Flambeé in one town (imagine a pizza base with a fried onion and cheese topping) – a typical local dish, and drank Alsation wine in several others (a really tasty dry variety). Always served in the cutest of green stemmed glasses too. It was clear we were going to have to make plans to return one day for a more relaxed appreciation of this region and all it had to offer. In the meantime, after a drive with the hood down in the most glorious of French sunshine, we picked up a bottle of Gewürztraminer and headed back to our Airbnb to get Alsauced!
(Tips; If you’re planning a trip to Alsace, there is an official wine route that would be worth checking out before you made any itineraries or plans. Also, if we visited again I would look for accommodation in Kaysersberg Vignoble as it’s less crowded than Colmar but equally as pretty and had plenty of places to eat and drink)
If you missed part one of our French Road Trip posts, click here.