A Weekend in Alsace

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I fancied visiting Alsace for three things – the pork-centric Alsatian cuisine, its most noted dry Riesling wines, and a strong German influence in this side of France.

A road trip to Alsace was indeed an ideal weekend getaway.

Due to its tumultuous past and its location between France and Germany, Alsace local culture is quite distinct. Alsatians feel extremely proud to be French, and yet from the local dialect to the traditional meals and iconic architecture, Alsace indeed displays its strong German heritage.

Alsatian Vineyard Route (Route du Vin)

The Alsatian Vineyard Route is absolutely a rite-of-passage especially for wine fanatics. Stretching from Marlenheim in the north near Strasbourg to Thann in the south and east to Mulhouse, this route goes along wine producing villages situated on the slope of the Massif des Vosges.

With 67 towns and villages, this route is divided into four regions, from south to north: Thann-Colmar, Colmar-Ribeauville, Ribeauville-Obernai, and Obernai-Marlenheim.

Alsace wines are mostly white with grapes also typically used in Germany. Gewurztraminer and Rieslings are the most notable grape varieties in the Alsace region.

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Alsatian Cuisine

With warm fermented cabbage topped with pork and sausages, choucroute has been my favorite winter dish ever since I moved here to Europe. At first I thought it was a Swiss traditional dish, but through this warm delight I came to later know about Alsace.  Choucroute (or saukraut) is apparently the gastronomic symbol in the region.

No doubt about it, choucroute wasn’t hard to find in Alsace.

Perpie & choucroute
ME & MY SAUKRAUT, WHAT A DELIGHT! There’s already readymade choucroute cabbage available in most supermarkets, so normally I just warm it up together with the meat. I’ll try to make one my own.

Alsatian dishes are rich and substantial, marked by the use of pork and potatoes in various ways, and served in generous portions. Alsatian cuisine is heavily German-influenced with a distinctive Gallic flavor.

Believe it or not, I was able to enjoy all other traditional Alsatian delights over that weekend – that tarte flambee (an onion, bacon, and creme fraiche pizza), Baekehoffe (oven stew mix of potatoes, onions, mutton, beef and pork), those charcuteries (smoked meats) of all sorts, and that yummy crème brulee… My goodness me, I was able to reach my full carnivorousness potential! 

Of course, we didn’t skip sipping some Alsatian wines.  White, of course too.

Alsatian cuisines to enjoy

Before I forget – did you know that Alsace is one the French regions that has the greatest number of restaurants per inhabitant? If you’re interested, feel free to visit one of them – here’s the Michelin list!

Riquewihr

One of the prettiest and delightful villages to visit in France, Riquewihr is a little medieval city situated between the Vosges mountains and Alsace vineyards. The village’s layout and structure have not changed much since the Middle Ages, and the people have not changed much either, for they still have the same lifestyle revolving around the industry of winemaking.

Strolling around RiquewihrStrolling around RiquewihrStrolling around RiquewihrStrolling around RiquewihrStrolling around Riquewihr

A walk through the little streets of Riquewihr is a delight for every traveler as you walk along these cobblestone streets and feast on these colorful German-inspired architecture.

Strolling around RiquewihrStrolling around Riquewihr Strolling around Riquewihr

Strolling around Riquewihr Strolling around Riquewihr Strolling around Riquewihr

Kaysersberg

Not so far from Riquewihr, Kaysersberg is another idyllic village that is worth to visit. This village is a bit bigger, yet every bit is as beautiful as Riquewihr. But quieter and more relaxing to go around, I would say.

Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg Strolling around Keysersberg

There are also other villages like Colmar, and not so far from Alsace too is its famous city, Strasbourg.  Perhaps it’s the lethargic feeling we’re getting from meat overdose that we decided to skip the visit to these equally pretty places.

Indeed, Alsace is the other side of France that is interesting to see.

My Travel Notes
How we got there…

We left Switzerland on a Friday night after our work, so we decided to stay somewhere in Mulhouse for a night before we head forth to our weekend destination.

The next day, we made a quick stopover at Mulhouse. We also passed by the Grand Ballon in the Vosges mountain.

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Grand Ballon

Where we stayed to relax for a weekend in Alsace…

It took us awhile to find our hidden getaway, as we drove away from Grand Ballon and went further to the forest side. 

Located in the heart of the Ballons des Vosges Regional Natural Park in Alsace, the 3-star Saint-Bernabe Hotel and Spa is a veritable haven of tranquility for nature lovers (like us).

Saint-Bernabe Hotel & Spa

This hotel has Hôtel au Naturel label that clearly provides a relaxing retreat of unspoilt nature. The hotel has its own wellness center.

The Les Fougères Spa opens its doors to a world of well-being to help guests make the most of the surrounding peace and serenity. In this sanctum of quietude, dedicated to relaxation and awakening of the senses, feel stress and strains melt away in the jacuzzi, the saunas, the hammam or the outdoor swimming pool (with heater!). And they also offer relaxing massages, which I took of course.  😉

Saint-Bernabe Restaurant

The hotel also has its own restaurant, Le Jardin des Saveurs. The dinner over there on our first night was really top. Overall, it was really an enjoyable and relaxing stay in Saint-Bernabe Hotel and Spa.

What we did in Alsace…
  • Get a road trip in the Alsatian Vineyard Route. Try to get lost and stuck in small, unheard wine villages in the region.
  • Visit the well-known medieval wine villages such as Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, Colmar. Feast on medieval beauties, still at its finest.
  • Eat and drink like an Alsatian.

Alsace produces fine wines from Riesling, Sylvaner, Gewürztraminer, and other types of grapes, as well as clear, potent, aromatic distilled liquors (eaux-de-vie) from the many varieties of fruits and berries that grow in abundance in this northeastern corner of the country.

For traditional fare, look for smaller, family-run restaurants, bistros, bakeries and pastry shops. Then enjoy eating traditional Alsatian dishes such as: choucroûte garnie, Bäckeoffe, tarte flambée, Kugelhopf, Munster cheese, crème brulee, fruit tarts, smoked meats and sausages.

If you want to go modern and upscale, Alsace is also known for having the most number of Michelin restaurants per inhabitant.

What are other things to do…
  • Visit Strasbourg. Strasbourg is the capital city of Alsace region and currently the seat of the European parliament.
  • Get a stay in Black Forest. Not so far also from Alsace is the Schwarzwald or Black Forest, which has a vast expanse of hills, valleys, rivers and forests.

WHAT’S YOUR STORY ?

Do you want to include Alsace on your travel bucket list?  Or have you been to Alsace? If ever you have a chance to visit it again, how will you spend your days in this region?

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