Sunday, June 3, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend, French Style

For our long Memorial Day weekend we took a road trip to the Alsace region in north east France.  This area of France is just across the Rhine and is only about a 1.5 hour drive from our house.  Although we missed the cook outs and pool time stateside for the long weekend, we really enjoyed ourselves in such a beautiful country.

We started out in the city of Strasbourg, which dates back to 12 BC.  Strasbourg, as well as the entire Alsace region, is a quirky and unique blend of French and German culture.  It was fought over and handed back and forth between the French and the Germans many times.  The Strasbourg Cathedral of Notre Dame is definitely the most impressive building in the city.  Construction started in 1647.  Amazing!

We also visited "Petite France", the oldest and most charming part of town.  It feels like you stepped back into time when you walk through the narrow streets and along the canals lined with crooked half timbered buildings.

As a tourist in Strasbourg, you have to take a boat ride along the rivers and canals, complete with cheesy earphones to hear the history of the town in English.

That evening, we headed through the countryside on the "Wine Road."  The Alsace region is known for its wines, particularly Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Pinot Noir. The Wine Road is in a valley between the mountains of the Black Forest in Germany and the Vosges Mountains of France.  The rolling hills are covered with vineyards.  You can see remains of chateaus and castles on the tops of mountains.  The road takes you through quaint towns and villages where you can stop in tasting rooms to try out the local wines that are delicious and surprisingly cheap!   Some of the towns we drove through reminded us of Belle's town in Beauty and the Beast; picture perfect!

Our hotel was in the town of Colmar, a larger town along the wine road.  It is such a beautiful, quiet and picturesque town with canals, cobblestone roads, and side walk cafes. The food was an interesting mix of
French and German- think crepes and kraut.   Colmar is also the birthplace of the Statue of Liberty!

This area is known as "Petite Venise"
More "Petite Venise"
Enjoying Dinner Al Fresco
Mmmmm, a puck of goat cheese  :-)
On Sunday we spent more time in the country side along the wine road. We went to a bird and wetlands animals refuge/zoo where we saw otters, huge hamsters (yes, really), fish, ducks, swans, and to top it all off, storks! I had no idea, but storks live in the wild and are the "mascot" of the Alsace region. You'll see their huge nests high up on the top of churches. The noise they make sounds like weird, clicking aliens.
Mamma and baby stork!

Baby stork smiling for the camera

An otter in search of fish

Our first ever Black Swan!

Our next stop was the château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg. It is a medieval castle sitting high on a mountain overlooking the valley. It has an amazing view from the top, which is worth the drive alone. As we were waiting in line to buy tickets to tour the castle, the power went out, so unfortunately we didn't get to go inside. We walked around the outside, which was still pretty cool, and we also had coffee at the outdoor cafe overlooking the valley. (French coffee + sun + view = perfection :)

We spent the rest of the day stopping in the villages to stroll the streets and taste wines.

We headed back to Colmar to have dinner and stay the night before our drive home on Monday. Instead of taking the Autobahn back, we decided to take the scenic route through the Black Forest, an excellent choice. We saw so much beautiful scenery this weekend, and Kyle took TONS of pics. Be sure to check out more of the pics on Flickr (right side of screen.)

Every place that we've gone so far we want to go back to see more and the Alsace was no exception. I hope you're taking notes for what you want to see when you come visit!

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