And then, as we were discussing options for the Easter weekend, it somehow came up that we should visit the Auberge de l'Ill in Alsace, and that this should be my birthday present. Jules had waxed lyrical about this place a few times - visiting with his grandfather, who loved to pop by on the way to business trips in Switzerland, meeting the late chef Paul Haeberlin there, who first earned the restaurant its third Michelin star in 1967 (amazingly, it has retained them ever since), and raving about the fantastic foie gras. So, half of me listening to that is like, "aw, what nice memories" and I gotta be honest, the other half is all
Ain't no three-star restaurants in New Zealand! But haters are only going to hate until they themselves get invited to said three-star restaurant, and then enthusiastically leap at the chance. So on Thursday morning, we drove down to Alsace from Luxembourg, through pouring rain and roadworks the entire way, arriving about half an hour late but still lucky enough to be given the best table in the house, right in front of a bay window looking over the river and restaurant garden.
|Panorama from our table|
It was all quite fancy and I was a bit nervous - Jules, of course, is more at ease and generally helps me out, although I got quite flustered with the sommelier because I always feel like a dolt for not drinking white wine even if I have fish. The service, I must say, was impeccable. I spent quite a long time in the bathroom between courses - they had Japanese-style toilets which I had to play with (heated seats - bit weird, really - buttons that made the seat and the lid go up and down, and a bidet function that I was too scared to experiment with) and pictures of some of the famous guests in the corridor on the way to the loos. Queen Elizabeth and her Mum have eaten there, along with various European royals and statesmen, and French celebrities like Johnny Hallyday and Yannick Noah etc. And now me! But anyway, as I came back into the dining room I overheard a sotto voce "elle est là" from someone, and our meals arrived about 30 seconds later, so I'd probably been stressing the chef out with my extended ablutions.
|Entrée - salmon soufflé, quite different from what I imagined, with basically a whole salmon steak in there|
|Pigeon stuffed with incredibly rich foie gras - I'm sorry my photo didn't capture how crazy long the pigeon leg was!|
|My favourite course, of course, an assortment of chocolate icecream, mousse, cake etc. presented so beautifully (I'd love to own that plate too)|
|Happy Jules has a coffee after our feast|
|One of the waiters took our photo in the garden (sheltering from the drizzle, that is)|
|Most of the streets in the centre were covered with intricate cobblestone designs. The streets also featured the water drains you can see on the right - although many were larger than this one and a bit of a hazard to be honest!|
It was forecast to rain solidly for our whole trip, so it was a lovely surprise that Good Friday was actually a beautiful day. We woke up in Freibourg and had brunch at Café Extrablatt, a chain we also ate at in Aachen, which does a good-value buffet brunch in a trendy atmosphere (and this one is right next to the river, which is nice). It seems to be a popular hangout with students, probably due to the all-you-can-eat factor - we stuffed in so much breakfast food that we skipped lunch. The waiter even asked if we were Freiburg students, which made me feel like a young dickelchen (Luxembourgish for a young chick, as in both the poultry and female versions).
We then took the opportunity to work off breakfast with a gruelling trek up the 116-m spire of the Munster, some of it on a very narrow spiral staircase, in order to see the beautiful sunlit view of Freiburg from the top. It was tough, but worth it!
|Beautiful, bright statues in the portico|
|View over the towers of the (?) nave|
|Me and Jules at the top|
|Looking down at the square below|
|Peeping through the stonework|
|Amongst other things, you can see the lovely red Merchants' Hall in the foreground|
|The Munsterplatz from ground level|
I'm sorry we didn't get more time to explore Freiburg's charms, but it was such a lovely day (with rain forecast again the next day) that we were eager to move on through the Black Forest to Lake Constance while the weather held... But that will have to wait for another post!