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Most first time visitors don’t manage to stay off the beaten track in France because there are so many top hits to see first, but they chose to visit Alsace and did a great job finding some gems that most tourists never visit. Katie did a lot of her trip research using Pinterest and she’s given me a few tips so I can hopefully help more people find the show on Pinterest. Thank you Katie!
Katie and Nathan stayed at a lot of Air B&B on this trip, and they enjoyed that a lot better than their previous experience in Ireland and Scotland where they mostly stayed at Hostels. They were in France for 13 days and they had no particular reason to choose France, Katie just wanted to try it. Katie has ancestors from Colmar, that is why they decided to start there.
Renting a Car Upon Arrival in Switzerland
Katie and Nathan rented a car and kept it the whole time. They flew into Geneva and Nathan being a car enthusiast enjoyed driving in France, Geneva, Ireland, Scotland, etc. He likes it because it’s all new and fun. Episode 16 on Driving in France was a big help. As counter intuitive as that may seem, the speed limit is not always posted: different types of roads have different speeds and you’re supposed to know what it is. It is actually more common to have a sign saying the speed is no longer valid when they never told you what it was to begin with! Katie drove also because she’s used to driving a manual at home too. More Driving Information
Dealing with Jet-lag
They found that flying in and driving off on the same day was not too difficult because they had prepared for the time difference. They tried adjusting to France time before they left for the trip by adjusting their sleep schedule, they took melatonin, they tried sleeping on the plane, and by the time they got to France they didn’t feel very tired. The preparation paid off because when they flew to Dublin on another trip without preparation they felt they were going to die.
Colmar, Riquewihr, and Hunawihr
Katie and Nathan loved Colmar, it is so beautiful. Sometimes when you go on a trip and you want to take some photos, you have to be a little bit strategic to make it look beautiful. Colmar is not like that. You can point your camera in any direction and get a gorgeous picture. The city is well kept, colorful, there are a lot of medieval half-timbered houses.
Katie and Nathan stayed in a XVI century house with a couple of wine makers, from a family of wine makers. The place where they stayed was called Maison Martin Jund, a small hotel linked to a winery. They really enjoyed the Riesling and the Gewürztraminer, a specialty of Alsace that goes great with turkey. Their plan was mostly to walk around and explore the city, notably the little venice (la petite Venise de Colmar) where they took a boat tour in the canal. They didn’t love the boat ride because they didn’t get much in the way of explanation or history.
Possible Museums in Colmar
Katie and Nathan did not visit a single museum on this trip, but they heard good things about some of the museums in Colmar:
- Musée Unterlinden: the home of the famous Isenheim Altarpiece that Nathan mentions. 160,000 visitors per year.
- Musée du jouet de Colmar: a museum dedicated to model trains and toys in general. 60,000 visitors per year.
- Musée Bartholdi: Bartholdi is the man who designed the Statue of Liberty. 21,000 visitors per year.
Little Venice in Colmar
A scenic small section of Colmar named this way because houses are lined up along the river “la Lauch” and the alignment makes it look like it’s a canal. The area was the home of farmers and wine makers who used flat bottom boats to move their goods. Flat bottom boat rides are available today.
From Colmar they drove to Riquewihr and that was also beautiful, colorful, as a matter of fact, it looks like a fairy-tale. It’s a touristy place with a lot of wine places, but it wasn’t super crowded and at least the tourists were mostly French.
Vegetarian Food in Alsace
The food in Colmar and Alsace is always part of the attraction, but Katie is a vegetarian which made things interesting in this particular region. Most of the food is German influenced with a lot of sausage. This is the place where Katie found it the most difficult to eat. She had no problem finding vegetarian options in the other areas of France that they visited, but vegetarian in Alsace is a problem.
They found that all the restaurants had the same food options. Most of these beautiful, well-managed cities in Alsace don’t allow chain restaurants. As a result, in Colmar and Alsace, you will find many family-owned restaurants that serve the traditional foods of the area. That is great, except when you want to eat vegetarian. They tend to put “lardons” into everything, even salads. Lardons are like bacon bits, just better. They found a lot of “tartes flambées” which are akin to pizza but with a cream base. Katie found a place where they served a mushroom quiche without lardons.
Different Prices for Sit Down and Take Away
When they went to have lunch in Riquewihr they realized that the price for eating at the restaurant was almost twice as the take-away price. This is not something Annie has experienced in Toulouse or anywhere else in France before. Maybe this is something that only happens in Colmar and Alsace? In any case, watch out for that and please let us know in the comments section here or on the Join Us in France Closed Group in Facebook if you run into it also.
Hunawihr is very small (around 500 inhabitants) but also extremely scenic. Not only is the village itself is gorgeous, but near the edges you will also see beautiful vineyards, châteaux, medieval ruins, it’s beautiful all over. You can probably visit Hunawihr within a half hour. Hunawihr is much less touristy than Riquewihr if that’s important to you.
Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg
You drive up a mountain to go visit this beautiful castle. There are tours available, but they chose not to because they didn’t have enough time. Walking around the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle was nice enough. They enjoyed great views and had a lovely visit.
Replica of the Statue of Liberty on a Roundabout
On their drive that day they saw a replica of the Statue of Liberty which you can find near the airport in Colmar where the D83 intersects with rue Curie. Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the Statue of Liberty, and he was born in Colmar.