Just to get into the Alsace region, we flew into Strasbourg, France (the main city in Alsace) and I can honestly say that I am glad this city was not our base. While it was lovely, it was simply too big and had far too many chain stores for me to get that "small town" vibe I was hoping for. After one short night, we hopped on the train to Colmar, France (about 25 min. south via train), which felt so much more manageable and quaint compared to Strasbourg. This was our base.
Alsace is right on the German border, which explains why the two cuisines are so similar. Lots of sausage, stewed meat, sauerkraut, and potatoes. After about a day, this type of food does nothing but weigh you down! One Alsatian specialty, that I'll admit I had no idea belonged to Alsace, was the tarte flambée: very, very, very thin dough crisped up in a wood-fire oven and traditionally topped with fromage blanc, thinly sliced onions, and lardons. With a variety of toppings to choose from, a tarte flambée is, comparatively, lighter and cheaper than some of the other dishes available. This definitely became the go-to shared dish on the trip.
From Colmar, the ideal plan is to rent a bicycle or car to get to some of the nearby small towns on the Route du Vin, like Riquewihr, Kayserberg, and Ribeauville, just to name a few. These towns are not serviced by train or any reliable public transportation, which can catch some tourists off-guard. While many wineries do require appointments for tastings or tours, there are actually several larger wineries that are open daily to the public: Hugel & Fils in Riquewihr and Maison Trimbach in Ribeauville are two very popular Alsace wineries that tourists tend to be familiar with. I did visit the Hugel & Fils tasting room in the adorable town of Riquewihr, which is a postcard town if I've ever seen one. Another perk of stopping in Riquewihr is that most of the vineyards are open to the public and entrances/pathways are located at the end of just about any street.
One thing that I do love about France is that you will always find a great food market, no matter how small the town. I have to say I totally forgot that Munster cheese also comes from Alsace. What a treat it was to be reminded of that fact when about a hundred pounds of it was served atop one of our tarte flambées!
Even though this was a wine tour, I felt like being a rebel and thoroughly enjoyed one too many local Fischer beers with my also one too many tarte flambées. Definitely ready to cross the German border to swim in some Riesling!
*all photos by Shauna Burke