Our base in Colmar was situated in the picturesque Alsace wine region where there are an endless amount of pretty postcard villages surrounded by fields and rolling hills of prestige vineyards, castles ruins and dramatic mountainous skylines We spent 4 wonderful days meandering through the following timeless towns. Each one also had priceless unique natural beauties which were calming to the soul.
Eguisheim is a beautiful quaint French village surrounded on one side by vineyards. Voted France’s favourite village in 2013. Full of historical timber houses, restaurants, wine tasting and narrow cobblestone streets.
The hero here was 16th and 17th century churches and housed with huge storks nesting on steeples and chimney stacks.
These giant lanky birds return to this area in March and build enormously large nests throughout the town and forests. This is a miracle as they were nearly extinct in this area. In April the gangly baby storks hatch and at the end of May the flock with their eagerly strong youngsters migrate. We were very lucky to be graced by their presence. We saw many storks in their nest. They throw their head and neck back towards the sky and make a loud gurgling noise that sounds extremely prehistoric. Rob and I were bemused by their enormous wings flapping randomly. We were entertained by spotting each humongous over sized nest and seeing them soar above us like a pterodactyl. There is a lovely easy walk leading onto a natural reserve where you can do some bird watching and a stork enclosure housing 2 nesting storks. Storks have even made nests on top of the roof of the enclosure. The town is invested in increasing and managing the stork population.
Strolling through the cobbled stone alley ways we stumbled across a champignon (mushroom) specialty store where we purchased a mixture of dried powdered gourmet mushroom mix used to make a exquisite mushroom sauce. This became the inspiration and key ingredient for dinner that night. Chicken breast served with a flavoursome creamy mushroom sauce and again the next night for Rob’s Italian birthday feast I used the magical mushroom mixture to create cream of mushroom and broccoli fettuccine and fresh ham off the bone bocconcini pizza.
From the town of Eguisheim we spotted 3 ruined castles on the hillside so we drove 5 minutes further down the road through bare winter vineyards to Husseren-les-Châteaux.
We embarked on a 30 minute hike straight up the mountain side through a tranquil forest to the 11th and 12th century ruined castles of Haut-Eguisheim. As we climbed the views were increasingly more and more amazing.
The 591 meter views below of Eguisheim were spectacular. It was so refreshing to be able to get amongst nature without snow under toe.
It was a great feeling to ramble over 11th century ruins where the dungeon remained and arch ways looked out onto overgrown forests.
Riquewihr was the last town we visited for the day. We wandered through the 13th century wooden gate way of the town complete with draw bridge and a real guard dog who kept watch from the adjacent stone wall. Rob was taken in by the portcullis which is a metal fang like spiked gate which lowers to protect the town from invaders. It is one of the oldest in Europe made from pink time eroded stone.
Walking the cobbled streets of the town we were taken in by a shop display which had huge slabs of nougat and gingerbread. Each gingerbread was large enough to feed an army. We sampled many variations of gingerbread before purchasing a rather large slice of gingerbread and chocolate cake. We didn’t ask the magic questions. How big are the slices and how much is it per slice???????? We were told it would last 6 months I laughed and whispered to Rob more like 2 sittings. I realised at this stage that our gingerbread free tasting had now turned into an expensive venture. The price came which cost us 26 Australia dollars. The price tells me that you are only meant to eat it in small cube size portions. Hence it will last for 6 months so you are getting value for money!!!Well that didn’t happen so Rob got an expensive slice of pre birthday gingerbread cake and that is the only birthday cake he got!
Shops were decorated in cute festive Easter displays. The town of Riquewihr was ready to burst out into Spring fever. You could feel the anticipation of Spring weather mixed with holidays. This blossoms into the beginning of the tourist season where these quaint French wine towns wake from their slumber and come to life with the hustle and bustle of great wine, food and prosperous times.
Rob’s Birthday Bash in Strasbourg- No snip for Rob!
For Rob’s birthday we planned a visit to Strasbourg the capital of the Alsace region it was an easy hour’s drive on the express way.
Our main focus here in Strasbourg was to visit Strasbourg Cathedral. It is Europe’s largest medieval cathedral. We rounded the corner of the cobbled old town streets and pardon me, it hit us smack bang in the face. There was no mistaking how grand and striking this Cathedral was!! It stood tall like a bean stalk ,up and up billowing into the heavens above looking straight down at you like peasants. You need to remember to breathe. For 227 years this Cathedral was the tallest building in the world, up until 1874. After this experience some of Rob’s birthdays are just going to feel quite ordinary, plain and some what out right boring. How do you top standing inside a 1000 year old historical Cathedral of this calibre!!! The tower has 30 kilometres views all the way to the Black Forest.
We walked around every inch of the outside perimeter of this historic beauty. The sandstone features were truly spell-bounding. It was hard to stay focused as there was so much to explore as your eyes searched higher and higher. Every angle brought something new to admire and this was just the exterior. It was as if it was made out of wax with its decoratively carved facade and its statues on every available corner and arched doorway to mark the Cathedral’s territory. There were even knights on horseback hanging off the church.
The inside of this fair lady was filled with a sense of calm and serenity (as the elderly usually are) with it arched high ceilings and transparent stained glass windows that transport you back to medieval times.
The Cathedral houses its very own, very impressive glockenspiel. Again bad timing by us, as this clock was under restoration. We did get a clear view of this beautiful piece of priceless workmanship. Only time will tell if one day we get to see a glockenspiel bare its arms and show its face not cloaked under scaffolding hiding from the world.
After reluctantly pulling ourselves away from this beauty we strolled along the cobbled streets and canal which flows through Strasbourg. Rob was excited when he found that someone had already marked his birthday on a wall – 43 Years Day – Yes that was our celebration today for Rob!!
We went in search of a barbershop, as Rob wanted a birthday spruce up. We finally found one, but even though they only had one customer they said you needed to book, mmm ! Wouldn’t want to stress the barber out! Especially if he is using a razor!! The few hairdressers we found, which also didn’t look busy wanted to charge $70 dollars and needed an appointment days ahead, and they don’t touch beards!! Well I know Rob looks a little like a mountain man at the moment. So no birthday snip for Rob !!! He can remain my beast with curls growing for warmth down his neck. Well I took my beloved beast for a relaxing birthday Thai-Yoga stretch massage in a beautiful French Spa Hotel 20 minutes out of Strasbourg. At the resort before our massage we went for a nice walk in the forest along the river, watching swans and ducks glide along as we walked.
After our walk we warmed ourselves in the bar lounge which was grand and stately.
Finally we had to dress for the occasion. Rob looked a little too relaxed with his hip harem pants and cotton shirt. Our couples Thai- Yoga massage was just blissful, stretched everything back into place. Just what the doctor ordered.
We then headed to the indoor heated pool and spa which overlooked the forest through the glass windows. We were lucky to have the winter pool area all to ourselves (funny that) another reason to love winter travel.
To top it all off once back at our appointment I cooked Rob an Italian Birthday buffet. I think he had a really nice birthday and I was the lucky one who got to spend it with him.