Alsace, Castles, Colmar Region, Driving in France, european family travel, European Travel, France, France family travel, France Travel, Hill 351, Kaysersburg, Kientzheim, La Maison du Fromage, Munster, Ribeauville, Riquewhir, Route de Vin, Sigolsheim, Storks Munster, Travel
We spent a quick two nights in the Alsace region of France last week and fell in love. As we were driving away, I made the comment that we could have spent a week and Jeff agreed… high praise from this travel picky family. But, to start from the beginning-
Alsace is the smallest region in metropolitan France and the third densest in population (thank you Wikipedia), borders Germany and has been traded back and forth many times over the course of history. We weren’t quite sure what to expect as a lot of the pictures look very “German” and since we live in Germany we weren’t as excited as we should have been to travel to this area. However, we found the food, people and scenery to be very different than what we are used to; and loved it all!
We arrived on Victory in Europe or V-E Day. This is a French holiday and as we were driving I kept thinking that it was odd, the stores must have closed early. Well, no, it’s a holiday there and everything was closed for the entire day! We felt silly for not knowing as there were several celebrations going on and as Americans we felt we really should have known this.
We originally planned to spend our visit in Colmar as we had heard it was nice, but we checked into our Apartment for the weekend in Sigolsheim, headed to dinner in Kientzheim and totally forgot about Colmar. Kientzheim reminded me of the town in the movie Beauty and the Beast – yes, I am aware that this was an animated film, but this town was so cute and complete with a fountain in the center. After dinner we headed to Kaysersburg which was just as cute, a little larger, and had candles lit everywhere for V-E Day. There were several restaurants to choose from and some souvenir and other stores for those heading there for more entertainment. We headed back to our hotel for Indi’s bedtime and began to realize just how pretty this area was.
Saturday we spent the morning at the market in Munster, the town famous for the cheese of the same name. It was a nice local market, similar to others we have been to and had some rather friendly people and a nice selection. The other draw to Munster are the HUGE storks that make their nests over the town. I am terrified of birds so seeing one the size of a human being flying over me was not exactly the highlight but I held it together.
There is a cheese place outside of town, La Maison du Fromage, that we loved. It has a nice self guided tour in addition to the longer guided one, and a great restaurant.
While at said restaurant, we had to plan the rest of our day. A quick Google search and a well written blog we found later, and we were off to the “Epcot” town of France. I mean, I love Epcot so it seemed a good idea and it was also only five kilometres from our hotel.
This brings us to the life changing experience of Riquewhir. Ok, maybe not life changing but a new town to the top ten list of beautiful towns I have been lucky enough to see. Orta San Giulio, Bastad, Zermatt and now Riquewhir. It’s as if time has stopped there with the half timbered houses and stone and brick lined streets. There are some cute shops and restaurants and the best part was that the entire town is on a bit of a slope. This means the busses with their legions of people park at the “bottom” part of the town – making it more difficult for some of the less mobile to walk up the hill to the top part of town (this is my incredibly nice way of saying the busses of senior citizens stayed at the bottom of the hill). Hence, the higher part of town was nearly empty and we could walk the beautiful streets by ourselves. It was amazing.
From Riquewhir we drove on to some other towns including Ribeauville, a slightly larger and more crowded version but nearly as pretty and then went to the American Memorial on Hill 351. This was a story we were unaware of going into this trip, but learned quite a bit about. This hill was one of the last places that American troops overtook in the Colmar Pocket as they were passing through France in December 1944. There was a very nice memorial on the top of the hill including a large flag and commemorative stone. It even had a fresh wreath from V-E Day – it is always amazing to see American memorials in other countries that are so well taken care of.
We sadly had to return home after a quick visit but we will return and spend far longer exploring the castles in the area as well as enjoying far more of the French food. This was definitely one of the most pleasant surprises we have encountered in our travels. The next six weeks will bring us to five new countries so check back… we will try to bring a little entertainment to this space!