After spending three weeks in cheaper, Eastern European destinations we made our way to the land of croissants, good wine, and higher prices. Our 10 days in France began in the Alsace region along it’s northeastern border with Germany. Here are the highlights of our stay..
Colmar Old Town:
Colmar is one of the larger villages in Alsace, but its old town area keeps a quaint, small town feel. The narrow cobbled streets are a like maze walled with beautiful tudor style houses that casually lean to one side or another from centuries of settling into the earth. Gondolas carrying tourists slowly float by waterfront restaurants lining a canal that meanders its way under low bridges through town. It looks like disneyland, but it’s real.
Our favorite time to explore the town was first thing in the morning – This being France in August, that time was around 9:00am. Locals quietly go about their morning business and the air smells of fresh baked baguette and pastries from the the neighborhood boulangerie. The peace and tranquility end a little before noon though, as busses carrying tour groups and day-trippers from the larger cities nearby arrive.
These fanny-pack wearing, large-camera-wielding tourists weave and dart through the crowd only to stop abruptly in moving pedestrian traffic to take poorly composed pictures. As anyone who has lived in New York knows, this is the greatest of sins. It seems that popularity in these groups is directly correlated to the size of your digital camera. It was a tossup for who was the coolest of the group, but the man with the chest-mounted, football-sized camera won out over the lady who felt it necessary to use a full-size tripod.
As the afternoon slips into dusk and evening the crowds mercifully retreat and the town quickly returns to its comfortable atmosphere.
Colmar is at the center of the Alsace wine route and allowed us easy access to other towns and villages in the region. We took a day trip up to Ribeauville – a small village that that overlooks the Alsace valley from the foothills of the Vosges mountains. Ribeauville has tudor buildings and narrow cobbled streets like Colmar, but with a winery on each block there’s a heavier emphasis on wine tasting.
After a few glasses we took a walk out of town through the surrounding vineyards, which grow right up to the edge of the road. We walked through the vines up the valley wall above Ribeauville. As we gained elevation we started to get a better view of the entire Alsace basin. Medieval villages on the valley walls and floor punctuate vineyards that stretch as far as the eye can see. Everywhere we’ve been thus far has been a treat, but this is the first place where it felt like a privilege.