The Route Des Vin Beckons

The only way to way to experience the Alsatian Route Des Vin is to drive – something I’ve avoided doing in all my international travels. Today I ventured into a truly foreign experience. I give more credit to foreign drivers now. Little nuances we take for granted, such as traffic signs and lane markings are completely new.

We picked up a car from Avis at the Strasbourg train station. Very easy with the counter next to the taxi stand and the cars just down the road in a garage. Our car is a BMW 118 diesel. Very cute little hatchback and a bit of an upgrade, helps to be a repeat customer.

Took us a bit to figure out how to turn the car on but soon we were shifting our way out of the city. Me, a nervous wreck with my shoulders nearly to my hairline. I’m going to need a vacation to recover from the stress of driving, but I’ll admit I’ve begun to relax into it.

We started with a visit to Mount St Odile, an old church and convent at the top of a mountain overlooking the region. While not overly interesting in and of itself, the views were amazing and it was a beautiful drive up the mountain through the forest – along a tiny narrow road, which apparently is the only way they build roads in these parts.

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My new Tom Tom paid for itself a dozen times over as we continued our windy way through several villages stopping in the deserted streets of Damache-la-Ville. The streets are rolled up on Mondays and in the sleepy little village of Damache we were the only people in the village.

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The lack of people was actually a relief as I got my feet wet with what feels like driving on sidewalks. Villages are dotted with medieval towers and gates which you squeeze your car through hoping nobody is coming the other way. It’s a maze which thank goodness the Tom Tom navigated perfectly.

With the villages deserted we headed off to Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg. This awe inspiring medieval castle towers over the Bas-Rhin valley and is everything a medieval castle should be.

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Luckily the crowds were thin and we were able to explore the castle at our leisure. The views are thrilling and you can feel the history seeping through the stones.

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After a quick espresso in the castle cafe and finishing our smuggled breakfast picnic (ok, so we had been helping ourselves to some extra fruit, toasts and cheeses from breakfast over the last couple of days – saves more euros for vin!) we were ready to find our hotel in Colmar.

We’re staying at Hotel Les Tetes, a landmark in the historic district. The service so far is wonderful and our room is lovely and peaceful with an exposed timber ceiling.

We soon set off to explore and seek out some wine and dinner. For me it was definitely time for a hearty meal as the stress of driving wore me down!

Despite being a bigger town many of the restaurants are closed here as well but we discovered a German influenced Winstub. Our waitress spoke no English and her French was the regional dialect, but we did quite well ordering and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

I’ve been asking for the servers recommendation, which so far has been excellent. Mom went with a salad topped with cured ham, munster and other goodies. I went for a hearty house specialty – Roesti Schwendi.

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With nearly a dozen different Roestis on the menu, it starts with shredded potatoes and is topped with a variety of ingredients. This one consisted of pork tenderloin slices, shredded cheese and hollandaise all bubbling away in a cast iron baking dish. Yum! Pure comfort food Alsatian style.

After a leisurely stroll back to our hotel we’re looking forward to a good night sleep and more villages tomorrow. At least some villages with open tasting rooms and restaurants!

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