Monday, May 9, 2011

A Visit to Alsace, France

Timber framed houses, wine, medieval castles and winding cobblestone streets await you on a trip to Alsace. Mr. C. and I visited Alsace last Saturday stopping in the city of Colmar before heading to the Haut-Koenigsbourg at the top of the Stophanberch mountain passing gorgeous vineyard scenery on the winding route. Alsace, a region of France is on the eastern border of it’s nation located west of the upper Rhine and has passed hands from Germany to France several times over the centuries. The most notable transfer of the region in recent history was during the 19th and 20th centuries when it was transferred back and forth 4 times in 75 years! When we arrived in Colmar around 10:30 a.m. we headed to the main tourist office after snagging some croissants and spider espresso (you need the buzz and butter early in the morning) to take a tour of the city.
Like a lot of cities Colmar has numerous tourist and chain stores however, unlike other cities in the area it escaped World War II with little to no damage to the architecture, therefore it is not unlikely to see places like laundry mats and Chinese take out in pre-1700s timber framed buildings!If your looking to see Colmar I would recommend that you take the city tour. Colmar is easy to navigate as a pedestrian however,it is full of so many historical buildings it will really enhance your experience of the city by learning about the unique buildings, architecture styles and stories. If a walking tour is not possible due to health reasons, you can also ride a tour guided train around the city, similar to a hop on hop off without (as I understand) the ability to hop off until the end (ha-ha). My favorite buildings on the tour were the 12 square meters house and the hat house. We also learned that the vintage signs hanging on various buildings were used to let people know what the shop offered if they were unable to read (I was very excited by this).
The 12 square meter house.
It’s so tiny!
The sign to indicate a butcher shop.
The Hat House, named for all the tiny little hat’s on the façade!
For lunch we tried an Alsace specialty, tarte flambée. Tarte flambée consists of a thin crust covered with crème fraîche, onions, bacon and in some cases cheese and butter, or as our menu, at Le Krutenau said lard. Mr. C was not positive he wanted to eat a tarte flambée with lard on it until I reassured him it was butter. We loved the tarte flambée, especially since we accompanied it with a nice Riesling served in a clayware pitcher.
Tarte flambée in the process of being made at Le Krutenau.
Tarte flambée in the process of being eaten by Mr. C. at Le Krutenau.
We also explored Colmar’s Little Venice, called Little Venice because of the canals used to bring produce from the farms to the covered market in the city. If you take a visit to Little Venice, make sure that you do not miss the covered market itself where you can see the steps leading from the covered market into the water where farmers would unload their produce, meats and cheeses from the canal boats. The inside of the newly renovated covered market is full of fresh produce, raw cheeses and honey’s, flower’s and culinary specialties a wonderful place to grab a quick bite to eat which Mr. C and I took advantage of. The shopping in Colmar is great fun because intermixed with the chain’s and tourist shops are lot’s of unique boutiques and specialty stores. While I don’t usually care for chain stores when exploring new stores it is a lot of fun to find chain stores that you have never seen before. Mr. C and I found a really nice one in Colmar called, Maisons Du Monde… think prices similar to IKEA and a look like pottery barn, I should have a new writing desk delivered to our house soon…haha.
Inside the covered market in Colmar’s Little Venice.
Steps leading into the covered market from the canal.
After leaving Colmar we headed to the castle, Haut-Koenigsbourg which we were not terribly excited about. Not that visiting a castle should every be referred to as not exciting, but it seems like a lot of palaces and castles look more like gilded prisons, or works of fantasy out of touch with ordinary lives (which I guess is why they are castles). We were very happily surprised when we entered the castle. Built in the 12th century primarily for defense it resides at a height of 755 meters and surprisingly has a reddish pink hue due to it’s building materials of pink sandstone terraces. Burned during the 30 years war it was meticulously reconstructed in eight years during the early 20th century by the Kaiser, William II of Hohenzollern who intended to use it was a medieval museum.
The castle itself seems in some area’s to be built into the mountain top with rough hewn rock blending seamlessly with the pink sand stone. I would recommend a visit to the castle for anyone interested in medieval castles, military fortifications, beautiful views or fairy tales.
If I had to capture my day in Alsace in any one phrase I would have to say it felt like viewing a fairy tale. From the multi-colored rooftops and flowers in Colmar, to the pink walls of a medieval castle a visit to Alsace makes you feel as if you have stepped back in time with the Brothers Grimm for a day (though I would prefer to experience the Disney ending!).
I learned that this was used as an example in Howl’s Moving Castle!
The colors in this bathroom…not so much a fairy tale! haha – Mrs. C.

1 comment:

  1. sweet! I want to go there...I love Howl's moving castle


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...