I had heard of people driving or cycling the Route du Vin before and sort of thought "I've seen vineyards, I don't drink white wine, that's not for me". Well, I was wrong. (Hold the front page.) The Route du Vin is not only for me, I imagine it's for everyone. It's almost impossibly picturesque. I said to Jules at one point that the French government would probably have to pay people to plant vineyards even if they weren't making any wine (and thanks to subsidies, they probably effectively do).
Much as I adore the Loire Valley (and their wines win hands down, as far as I'm concerned), the vineyards there, while lovely, lose to the gorgeously terraced vineyards in Alsace. Touraine is just too flat, by and large, while the rolling hills of Alsace offer charming vistas at every turn. In the end, I think just driving along in the car was my favourite part of the weekend, even though we didn't stop off and sample any oenological delights.
|View from the highway driving to Colmar|
|So many cute little villages|
We did stop, however, in Riquewihr, a small and very touristy town. When I mentioned this to my colleagues at work, they pointed out that there had actually been a big fire (which killed someone and destroyed four old houses) there on New Year's Day this year. They've evidently done a good job of cleaning up, as I didn't see any signs of it (according to Jules, there was a house under construction, but I don't remember seeing it). Again, Riquewihr is really pretty, but also very, very touristy. I think we had thought we were getting off the beaten track and away from the tourists a bit. Ha! I think there were even more than in Colmar.
|Driving in to Riquewihr|
|The main drag in Riquewihr|
After Riquewihr, it was just a 10-minute drive to Ribeauvillé, where we had lunch at the Cheval Blanc, as recommended in the Michelin guide. Ribeauvillé was still pretty, but less overtly so than Riquewihr, and less crowded. Riquewihr was nice to see, but I think we were both glad to be having lunch in a less febrile atmosphere. We parked more than a kilometre away from the restaurant (before checking where it was), which gave us the chance to walk the whole way through the town to the "quartier pittoresque" which was indeed picturesque, but a bit quieter than further up the main street. We spent around two hours dining on the sunny terrace, sipping a surprisingly nice and not too sweet crémant and geranium-syrup apéritif before tucking in to a very nice dish of chicken leg and spätzle (soooo good) for me and baeckoffe for Jules. I definitely wanted more Alsatian food while we were here, but this was more refined (and better!) than I've had elsewhere. After the main, we were both fairly stuffed, but eventually made room for some sorbet - the lemon was to die for.
|Jules in Ribeauvillé|
|A fiddler ("pfiffer"), the symbol of Ribeauvillé|
|And the symbol of Alsace - a real live stork!|
|It was so cool seeing this guy. We amused ourselves imagining how he must just think he's the boss with his awesome nest on top of a medieval tower|
|We stopped by the side of the road to take this gorgeous vineyard panorama - to die for|