The Reluctant Writer: Something Else to do When I Should Be Writing

June 16, 2009

Alsatian paradis — Strasbourg, Obernai, Barr, Riquewihr

Filed under: France,travel,wine,writing — cynthiaboiter @ 02:44
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If I had to pick a favorite wine — it would have to be an Alsatian Gewurztraminer.  There is just something about the complexity and round layers of spice that I almost always find satisfying.  That’s one of the reasons we planned to spend such a big hunk of our time in the Alsace region of France — to give us time to really explore and soak up the Gewurtz, along with the Riesling and Pinot Blanc prevalent in the area.  We weren’t disappointed.

The Alsatian region of France is, throughout, very much like the fairytale photos you see in story books.  Half timbered houses, ancient fountains and village walls, carvings,  Gothic, Romanesque, and Renaissance architecture all crowded in together, beauty for the sake of beauty.   It is easy to get comfortable with beauty and intricacy surrounding you.  It is less easy to get comfortable with the cuisine which centers on pork, sauerkraut and tarts flambe.  (Who doesn’t like the occasional Alsatian meal, you may be thinking?  Go back and re-examine the term occasional and ask yourself if that means more than a dozen times per week.  Enough said.)

It was a quick train ride from Reims to Strasbourg where we began the Alsatian leg of our journey, and another short walk from the train station to our hotel, The Hotel Monopole-Metropole.  (www.bestwestern-monopole.com/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/lang,en/).  We had been looking forward to returning to the Monopole-Metropole (Bob and I had stayed there on one of our earlier jaunts years before), and as I dragged my suitcase along the uneven sidewalk I remembered the place and it’s one-step-up-from-a-fleabag charm.  Musty old furniture once beautiful in its day, ornate carvings in unexpected places, deep cast iron tub providing the opportunity for a proper bath.  We had barely walked down the hall to our room before we realized something huge had happened to one of the favorite hotels — it had been remodeled.  Majorly.  It’s hard to complain about modern comforts, but we were a bit disappointed. 

Our one night in Strasbourg was spent visiting our favorite European cathedral with its overabundance of delicate carvings and statuary, then eating spaetzle along the canal in a fantasy area of the city called Petit France.  And drinking Gewurtz — a  nice AOC Vielles Vignes (old vine) by Gerard Metz.

By the next morning we had our little rented Citroen packed up and were ready to take on the Rue du Vin.  The Rue du Vin is an ambling roadway that stretches through vineyards from Strasbourg south to just beyond Colmar, which is arguably the cultural capitol of the area.  Along the way the road snakes in and out of one quaint and totally authentic village after another — and each village is inhabitated by locals, many of whom make their livings by working with wine.

We visited villages like Obernai where we tasted the wines of the Seilly Winery — visiting with Mr. Seilly himself who spoke virtually no English but somehow persuaded us to purchase two of his bottles.  Just down the road in Barr we happily found the Leip-Leininger Winery where we met Luc, the son in the wining family.  While we tried his 2008 Saveur D’Agruma, a light summery blend of Sylvaner, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Muscat, it was his 2007 Riesling Grand Cru Kirchberg that we really enjoyed (and at the bargain price of only 11 Euros, we purchased a couple of bottles of these as well).

Some 55 miles from Strasbourg we ended the day’s travels in a town called Riquewihr (pronounced “Reek-veer”) where we would settle for a few nights.  Medieval, beautiful, touristy by day but all ours and the locals at night.  We checked into the Hotel Dolder, (http://www.dolder.fr/index_gb.html) named after the upper town gate built in the 1291.  The house itself was built in the 16th century and the rooms, though renovated, still fall at the end of winding staircases and have windows that look out over the village’s historic rooftops to the vineyards that surround the town.

If you’re wondering if we thought we were in heaven — well, yeah, actually we did.

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