Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, we went to Alsace....
(did anyone get that Beauty and the Beast reference?)
Ok so I don't have any singing/dancing household goods but I did marry a beast, right? (trying to earn brownie points for a puppy... hi Luke!)
Technically there isn't a way to confirm that Beauty and the Beast is straight out of Alsace, but you can't help but to draw comparisons as you make your way through the tiny cobblestone streets. I was probably one glass of pinot away from dancing and signing down the road like Belle. Yes, in my head I am a Disney Princess- aren't we all? Beautifully lined with quaint, yet still vibrant homes (think medieval looking with wooden beams and shutters, then add in blooming flowers, and an adorable French grandma outside shaking croissant crumbs out of a rug); the towns of Alsace are nothing short of fairy tale worthy.
A few cute fairy tale towns: Colmar, Ribeauville, and the Petite France neighborhood of Strasbourg!
Being less than a 90 minute drive from our home, we regarded our weekend in Alsace as an easy breezy trip, and a good excuse for Luke to parle some Français. We scored a chic Air BnB apartment in the heart of Strasbourg, hopped on the Autobahn and made our way west into France for a weekend of wine and history, because this is the Brady house, and that's what we do.
Strasbourg is a lovely city for your next getaway, with all the perks you could possibly want: pedestrian friendly, budget friendly, and in general- the people are friendly! To contrast this, you will find the Strasbourg Cathedral's imposing silhouette is the epitome of Gothic architecture and the world's sixth-tallest church at 466 feet high. Unfortunately at this height, it was impossible for me to get a good photo without laying down in the surrounding cobblestone square. Surrounding the cathedral are cafes, patisseries, and shops for your strolling pleasure. If you're looking for a fun way to get around and see the city, check out a tour via foot, pedi-cab, bike, or yes- even segway.
While in Alsace, we penciled in a trip to the Mémorial du Linge, located in Orbey, just west of Colmar. The Vosges mountains provide a scenic backdrop as we trekked through the WWI trenches, in complete awe that at many points the French and German lines were only a few feet apart! The site is incredibly well preserved being that it is 100 years old (the main battle here was in 1915), and saw its fair share of tragedy with 17,000 lives lost. The museum on site houses all the collected trinkets left behind after the casualties of war; it is small, but will only cost you a few euro for entry.
Our second day in the region of Alsace we ventured along the Route des Vins, stopping for the day in the town of Ribeauville. This gorgeous enclave within ancient walls lies at the foot of the Vosges mountains, about 15 miles from Colmar, and is home to one of the oldest wine-cooperatives in France, the Cave de Ribeauvillé, established in 1895. You are sure to find regional information here, along with over sized samples. Can we talk about that for a moment? Is there actually such a thing as "over sized" when it comes to wine? Probably not... revision: you are sure to find perfectly sized samples! If you love sweet wines, this will be your jam, and even if you prefer something a bit more dry, you can find a few varieties here to enjoy. I say (type) that in confidence because we are typically fans of dry reds and still managed to leave with a dozen bottles.
Note: we opted for the tasting to be done in French, but you can also find a staff member who speaks English, if you prefer. Pas de problème!
After one consumes their body weight in wine, the only appropriate thing to do is get your grub on, right? One of the coveted foods of Alsace is the tarte flambe. Because this area has been both German and French over time, the cultures blur seamlessly, and you will often find tarte flambee referred to as the German word flammkuchen, and loaded with the typical German toppings: onion and (bacon) ham AKA zwiebel und speck, which is obviously where my language skills come into play.
Whether you call it tarte flambe or flammkuchen, it's just as delicious!
A perfect way to combine your love for history and nature with a side of fitness is a visit to the Veil Armand, or Hartmannwellerkopf. HWK is a peak in the Vosges that stands at 3,100 feet tall, with carved out trenches and roped off in areas where explosives may still lay. Burn your calories and get your history fix by hiking up this peak where brutal battles of WWI were fought during 1915, resulting in 30,000 casualties. After reaching the top, we paused for a picnic and the opportunity to take in the beauty of the Rhine river valley from above.
Honestly being up in the Vosges, and seeing this view of the Rhine valley made me understand why everyone was fighting over this beautiful region... in reality it was probably more the fact that a favorable position to control the plane of Alsace would be a game changer, but I like to think that even on the most grim of days, maybe just one soldier found solace in this sightly stretch of land between the Rhine river and Vosges mountains.
I have seen a lot of lovely places in my time and travels, but I found the view at HWK to be one of the most breathtaking and inspiring landscapes I have ever seen. So many lives were lost here during the barren European winter, existing in the trenches was challenging, and soldiers fought with everything they had for their country; bravery and courage continue to swirl in the air at the peak of HWK.
"Traveling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." -Ibn Battuta
Not only was Alsace an adventure physically, but it became one spiritually, sitting on the top of HWK. So, as the title affectionately says: J'aime aventure!
BON VOYAGE, BABES!