After departing Freiburg, we headed to Colmar, an easy 30 minute drive or so. We almost stopped at the Vauban fortress nearby, but decided to wait and take our parents there later in the year when they visit (having gotten sick of doing the same attractions over and over, we now pick stuff a little more carefully!) We found our hotel in Colmar, Le Colombier, which is right at the edge of the old city in "Petite Venice". We arrived right at check in and found the reception very nice, and the room nearly as nice as our previous one. A little smaller, but decorated also very nicely, with bathrobes, a full bathtub, and other nice little touches (bath salts!) We quickly headed down to the textile market that RS had mentioned was open on Thursdays in front of the St. Martin's Church, only to find it wasn't quite the hand-knit scarves and hats I was hoping for. Just cheap knockoff stuff. Oh well. We toured that church as well as seeing the Madonna of the Roses at the Dominican church. Found Colmar exceptionally lovely and charming, and a little bigger and more bustling than I had anticipated, which was nice. We started mooning over pastries and all that wonderful stuff that makes France so French. After doing a good circuit of the city, we popped into Monoprix to get some gloves for me and some Beaujoulais Noveau 2012 (first day available!!) and rillettes and other goodies. Popped back into our hotel, made dinner reservations at a place we'd walked by and liked the menu of (and the corresponding high reviews on Trip Advisor), and headed to a nearby wine bar, L'un Des Sens.
We'd hoped to just get a pre-dinner glass of wine, but the waiter explained that despite the casual feel of the place (no formal tables, really), that because of a regulation we had to purchase food with the wine, but he'd make up a little "tapas" for 2 euro if that was OK with us, and we could then "drink as much as we wanted!" Fantastic! There was no real wine menu, he asked what kind of wine we liked, and we got specific and wine nerdy and he delivered, I drank a great local Riesling and my husband had an outstanding Pinot Noir. We arrived for dinner at La Cocotte De Grand-Mere, which is not a super traditional Alsacian restaurant but a little more modern French with Alsacian influences. We split the foie gras, of course, which was outstanding, served with plenty of toast, quince paste, honey, and black pepper. My husband got the baby boar with spatezle and mushrooms and I got a fish (not sure what kind) with a simple veg side and a dill pesto. It's hard to say who's was better - but both dishes were cooked perfectly and were amazingly delicious. The overall price was pretty reasonable for the quality of the food and the nice experience - 70 for two, including wine. The service was perfect - friendly and warm, just like we experienced everywhere in Alsace. Afterwards, more city walking, heard a great ruckus at one point and discovered about 100 young people milling out in front of a spanish themed bar drinking vin chaud (aka France's gluhwein). So that was fun. The next day we headed to the covered market, spend way too much on amazing food items, and then headed on the route du vin to Turckheim.
It was market day in Turckheim so that was great, and I was just otherwise impressed with the beauty and charm of the villiage in general. We could definately tell we were in off-season (not sure how touristed it is in the high season anyway), as aside from the market, the city was deathly quiet. After that we decided to do Riquewheir, because we'd probably want to skip it during future visits in tourist season. I haven't really ever seen a town so overflowing with medevial charm - I think it beats Rothenberg odT hands down in that department. Unfortunately, it is super touristy, most of the shops and restaurants were particularly unintersting because they were trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. But it's really worth visiting when it's not full of people. When we were there, a Friday in mid November, you could hear chainsaws as everyone was trimming trees and getting the Christmas decorations ready. We had a mediocre lunch at Bar Le Medieval Riquewihr, which was full of German tourists eating stinky Munster cheese melted over potatoes (which is seriously delicious, but I got an undercooked flammkuchen instead). We did a wine tasting at the Zimmer winery's shop in town, with a very friendly and informative woman. I was really sad to leave Alsace so early but we had dinner plans back in Stuttgart, so we left around 4pm, stopping at the Carrefour on the French/German border to get 3 euro bottles of Beaujoulais Noveau and more terrines, pates, cheese, and other goodies for cheap. As much as I like Strasbourg, I'm definitely going to do a full trip on the Route du Vin sometime between late spring and early summer next year, maybe even biking part of it. When it's less than a 3 hour drive there's really no excuse! Meanwhile, I'll be back in Strasbourg in February for the independent wine growers expo.
Sarah, Great trip reports - thanks for sharing! I just picked up a couple bottles of Beaujoulais Noveau 2012 for Thanksgiving dinner. While I'm sure the wine will be tasty, I'm sure it tasted much better sipping it in the Alsace! :)
Sarah, excellent point about Colmar being more bustling than one would think.
That restaurant and meal sound fantastic!! For your return trip, I can highly recommend the Hostellerie Schwendi in Kientzheim, and the nearby town of Kaysersberg. I reviewed the inn on TripAdvisor. Loved those two towns (Like you, I found Riquewihr, while beautiful, overly touristy). I love the image and sounds you evoked of everyone getting ready for Christmas!!
Great report, Sarah. Haven't made it to the Alsace yet but it's definitely on my wish list. The hard part is deciding where to stay -- either in Colmar or one of the smaller villages in the surrounding area.
I thought Riquewheir was a little too touristy too. It was beautiful, but not my first choice for where to stay. We enjoyed so many of the other little towns, but we were glad we stayed in Eguisheim. That little town was a highlight of our 5 week trip.