A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: victorian67

Welcome to Kaysersberg & Riquewihr !

Picture perfect !

Welcome to Kaysersberg & Riquewihr !

On this 31st March feeling more like a mid June with températures expected to reach 24° celcius, it was with great delight that I was travelling again on the famous Alsace Wines Route to discover two of its most spectacular crown jewels, celebrated for their beauty & charm which are making of these two picturesque villages "Pretty as a Postcard" : Kaysersberg & Riquewihr !

Thanks to the exceptionally hot and dry Springtime we are experiencing this year in the Great East, work in the vineyards is up to 3 weeks ahead of its schedule and man was already binding the vine on the sunny vineyards ( operation which consists in binding the vine shoot with a tie, which avoids the vine shoot to be suffer too much from strong winds and also to direct the vine shoot in the desired direction )

There are places which are preceeded by their reputation and these two villages which I was about to discover are amongst the flagship villages of the Alsatian architectural heritage with a little personal touch for Riquewihr which my Mum visited in her youth, when she was part of the Young Scouts and had walked through the entire Alsace region afoot, slept there overnight and was still cherishing the memory more than half a century later !

This might sound a little "cliché" for the insiders but for whom discover the Alsace region and in particular the Wine Route for the first time, the feeling of being blown away by so much beauty will be along with you on every street corner, each one even more picturesque than the previous one with those exquisite medieval colourful timbered houses which all seem straight out of a fairy tale...

On this 31st March feeling like Summertime, Nature was inviting us to a festival of colours and scents through a multitude of daffodils, tulips but also forsythias, cherry and plum trees in bloom, a real delight for the eyes and the senses !

Kaysersberg, nestled in the heart of sunny vineyards, birthplace of the famous Nobel Prize winner Dr Schweitzer dominated by the ruins of its imperial stronghold castle built in the 12th century with the river Weiss running through the village right below the noble timbered houses in places such as the Rue du Moulin.

Just like its illustrious neighbour village, Riquewihr is amongst the most beautiful villages of France and also one of the most flowery rewarded each year by the prestigious " 3 Flowers Flowery Village", an award which counts up to 4 Flowers with récipients such as Colmar and Eguisheim, also located on the Wine Route.

Discovering Riquewihr is entering a fortified city which history goes back as far as the Roman occupation, through the ancient "Porte du Bas" which passes through the City Hall and the rest will be an enchanting journey as one will wander from the "Tour des Voleurs", rue des Juifs to the "Place des 3 Eglises" up to the famous "Fontaine de la Sinne".

And not to forget the wonderful moment in which a Stork from nearby Ribeauvillé flew over me while looking for a branch in a nearby field to consolidate its nest...magical moments which the Alsace will delight you with in an ever dazzling and enchanting discovery of a region which is truly unique !

I invite you to discover these two jewels of the Alsatian heritage as they are about to celebrate Easter and which become simply magical at Christmas time...

Kaysersberg

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Karim

Posted by victorian67 10:57 Archived in France Comments (0)

Welcome to the City of Nancy !

Welcome to the City of Nancy !

As a Springtime weather settled over France for 7 days in a row of uninterrupted sunshine, blue skies and May like températures, I decided to visit a City I first heard about the many wonders over 25 years ago, Nancy with its world famous Stanislas Square. We all know places which are preceeded by their reputation and that of Nancy is a most certainly deserved one as the "Stan" Square as the locals call it has been renovated to sheer perfection down to its smallest detail and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So it is under the most auspicious blue skies that I discovered one Europe's most beautiful Royal Squares with a glorious sun shining throughout the day on a 12th March !

Amateurs of fine Architecture & Furniture like myself will be delighted with the grand neo classical style of the Stanislas Square but also with the maybe more confidential masterpieces from the Art Nouveau artistic expression in which lead the way in France at the time with Artists such as Majorelle for achitecture & furniture and Emile Gallé and Paul Daum for the glass paste work.

Nancy is also a green City with no less than 11 parks, 13 gardens, 23 squares and 5 promenades not to mention the magnificent Botanical Garden which hosts 12 000 different species over a 27 acres hilly countryside and of course the Parc de la Pépinière in which the Nancy people gather from the first sunny days of Spring amongst the trees, flowers and animals from the little zoo !

The historic centre of Nancy can easily be walked around as the places of interest are all close to one another and one can leisurely go from the "Stan" Square to the Old Town with its remarkable Medieval & Renaissance architecture and then to the nearby Parc de la Pépinière.

The City of Nancy truly was a magnificent discovery to me and really enchanted me with its many charms and will with no doubt enchant you too !

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Karim

Posted by victorian67 10:43 Archived in France Comments (0)

Welcome to the Alsace Vineyards !

Welcome to the Alsace Vineyards !

The Famous Alsace Wine Route !

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After an unforgettable day in the Christmas spirit of festive Strasbourg all dressed up with lights & colours in December, here I am back in the Alsace Region, at the very beginning of March for a fascinating discovery of the vineyards located along the famous Alsace Wine Route !

The Alsace Wine Route was inaugurated in 1953 and stretches over more than 170 kilometers over a region that starts from Thann in the South ( next to the City of Mulhouse ) up to Marlenheim in the North ( next to the City of Strasbourg ).

The one thousand year old wine culture which is very much a part of the Alsace history and traditions is present everywhere along the lovely winding road amongst the vineyards of some of the most picturesque and beautiful villages and offering some of most magnificent panoramic views in France.

The natural barrier of the Vosgian Mountains creates a dry microclimate and the the South east exposition associated with limestone, sandstone and granite soils produces grape varieties such as the Riesling, Pinot, Muscat and Gewurtztraminer.

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The German influence is still very much present through the grape varieties as well as the wine producing methods which sets the Alsace Region apart from the other French Wine producing régions with a strong interest for organic agriculture which forbids the chemical weeding as well as the use of synthetic chemical products for the treatment of the vine and promotes natural products such as the copper sulfate or with elaborate plants decoctions for the vineyards which have embraced the biodynamic method.

This day was for the me the perfect illustration that "wine is often the source of beautiful and happy encounters" as listening to a Wine Maker telling you the story of his vineyard and his passion for the vine and wine making often brings up the desire to learn a little more about this bottle of wine which accompany the meals of our lives, often too randomly chosen in the anonymous and sterile environment of a supermarket.

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I must admit that until this happy discovery of the Alsace vineyards, I often associated its wines with a green if not acidic wine with a note of sulfur which sometimes brought headaches and was mainly good enough to be served with a sauerkraut...

Unfortunate preconceived ideas which are hard to kill and against which a new generation of wine makers has been working on a daily basis for the past 15 years to bring us quality wines at an affordable price and the Alsace wines still are a great bargain ! The overseas consumers have understood that long ago with a production that goes up to 65% into the export markets !

So I invite you all to discover or rediscover the Alsace Region wines which will charm your palate and pleasantly surprize your Friends when being served around your appetizers and meals !

From this journey of discovery of the Alsace vineyards, I have retained the folllowing wine references ( appointment only visits according to the availability of the Wine Maker ) :

L'As de B from the Agathe Bursin Vineyards ( Westhalten )

Cuvée Emma ( Muscat ) from the Domaine Eklé Vineyards ( Katzenthal )

Le Grand H ( Pinot Noir )

& La Cuvée Albert ( Riesling ) from the Domaine Albert Mann Vineyards ( Wettolsheim )

Le Fronholz ( Riesling )

& Le Fronholz ( Muscat ) from the Domaine Ostertag Vineyards ( Epfig )

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Karim

Posted by victorian67 10:33 Archived in France Comments (0)

Welcome to Strasbourg Christmas Markets !

Welcome to Strasbourg and its Christmas Markets !

When one arrives like myself in the 3 Borders Country and one speaks about Christmas Markets, one name comes back on everyones lips, Strasbourg ! The largest, the most beautiful and famous Christmas Market of all and as I discovered while researching prior to my visit, the Capital of Christmas, nothing less !

And as I boarded a comfortable double decker grand tourism bus for the very reasonable price of only 19.00 Euros return filled with a joyous crowd of people coming from all parts of the country, I wondered if the city of Strasbourg which I was about to discover, with such a fame and reputation would live up to my expectations, and I must say it even exceeded them !

To say that I arrived on this December 05th in a city dressed up to celebrate Christmas in style is a sweet understatement as Strasbourg posess the Art and the Way to make Christmas sparkle like nowhere else thanks to the efforts of the talented Strasbourg Window Dressing Association which counts no less than 700 shop owners amongs its members and who create the magic one can enjoy throughout the City centre by decorating the shops and the fronts of the buildings with an Art that mixes exquisite craftmanship with a touch of magic.

One must say that the tradition of the Christmas Market in Strasbourg dates back to 1570, year in which the first and Europe's oldest "Christkindelmärik" or Christmas Market came to life.

Strasbourg is a big town where one travels using a modern and well appointed system of tramway and the City Centre where the historical and architectural splendours are gathered is easily accessible by foot and one can discover the sublime Cathedral Notre Dame, the famous Rue des Orfèvres, the popular Place Colbert or the unique architectural ensemble of the Petite France district at its own pace and time.

I was Lucky to discover Strasbourg by a beautiful sunny day, which is always a plus at this time of the year and I must admit that the Capital of the Alsace region has not only seduced me but also blown me away !

The 2013 Christmas Market offers a number of 300 chalets gathered in 11 locations in the city centre which welcomes this year Croatia with a Christmas Village dedicated to the traditions and Art & Crafts of the Croatian people. I can recommend you little digestive drink made from brandy and figs called the Rajika, as delicious as original.

The Streets décorations of the city centre dressed up in festive colours and lights will simply blow yourself away from the sublime Rue des Orfèvres to the picturesque art of the Petite France district. I have travelled a lot and saw quite a few cities at Christmas time, in France and abroad, but the festive décorations of Strasbourg belong to these things that one must see at least once in their lifetime with the pinacle being the huge 30 meters high Christmas tree of the Place Kléber dressed in silver and blue by the Designer Antoinette Pflimlin with no less than St Louis Crystal baubles !

My recommendations for Foodies like myself, beyond the tasting of the many regional delights of the Christmas Markets enjoyed with a glass of Mulled Wine, will be the venerable Maison Kammerzell with its Renaissance wooden architecture which contrasts so magnificently with the nearby Cathedral Notre Dame where I enjoyed a Christmas beer called Grimbergen. A must visit is also the Auberge de la Chaîne d'Or located on 134 Grand Rue which dates back to the medieval times for a very affordable price of only 15.70 Euros for a starter and a main course. The sweet delights afficionados will gathered to Christian Tea Room and Pâtisserie located on 10 rue des Mercières with its front wall decorated in a Baroque style and where cakes are mini works of Art. And my personal crush will go to little Weinstube as original as picturesque, Pfifferbriader or "Pfiff" for the locals, located on 14 Place du Marché with its little tables dressed in traditional Alsatian fabrics, mullioned Windows and exquisite stained glass, and a Young and dynamic Team. An absolute Must to discover !

So this is to a visit of Strasbourg dressed up in its finest festive outfit which I invite you starting from the Place Broglie with its traditional Christmas Market to the sublime and imposing Cathedral Notre Dame which 142 meters high Arrow made the highest building in Occident history up to the 19th century, to the Rue des Orfèvres straight out of a Christmas tale to the unique architectural ensemble of the Petite France district with its black and white medieval houses enchanting subtle pastel colours.

You will excuse the artistic fuzzy of the last pictures which can be explained in a few words : Christmas Beer and Mulled Wine associated to two hands increasingly filled with shopping bags !

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Karim

Posted by victorian67 09:42 Archived in France Comments (0)

Welcome to Metz Christmas Market !

Welcome to Metz Christmas Market !

It is by wonderfully sunny afternoon, this Sunday December 1st that I boarded the regional train towards the City of Metz and its Christmas Market, Christmas Markets should I rather say as they are 6 in total spread around the city centre, but all within a walking distance. As soon as I arrive in the historic train station I was greeted by the towering silhouette of the giant Vosgian Christmas Tree dressed in silver and white which welcomes you in a City that knows to celebrate Christmas with warmth !

I know the centre of Metz quite well and yet it was a a wonderful surprise to discover all these familiar Streets and squares dressed in festive colours starting with the Place de la République with its Big Wheel and its Ice Skating Rink then to the Place St Louis with its magical Village Under the Stars with Chalets straight out of a Russian winter tale and finally the Place St Louis with its traditional Christmas Maket which is a delight for all the senses ! Starting with the appetizing scents coming from the chalets where the traditional Tartiflette, Flamenkuche and Choucroute are being freshly cooked and of course the grilled sausages amongst those the famous Frankfurter and the white sausage which is a regional specialty and is to be enjoyed with a Bretzel and mustard.

The Foodies will gather around the chalets where pancakes and fresh fruits dipped in chocolate on skewter are being served with all the other sweet delights you can possibly imagine and enjoy with a mug of Mulled Wine which is available in its red or white variety, delicious and so festive. Gastronomy from around the world is also present on the market with products from the Basque region, Caribbean, Spain and even Canada with the most delightful accents to match ! Fresh oysters coming from Britanny, panfried snails, homemade Foie Gras terrine, artisanals cordials available in dozens of unusual flavours, Tartiflette specialty cooking in its giant pan, a little tour of the Place St Louis Christmas Market will not only put you in a happy and festive mood but is also a great source of inspiration for original ideas for your Christmas meals and decorations !

I invite you to discover the many colours and smiles of the Metz Christmas Market through the following pictures taken as I was enjoying a paper horn of freshly roasted chestnuts which have become my latest craze !

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Karim

Posted by victorian67 09:21 Archived in France Comments (0)

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