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Alsace, September 2011

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Alsace was my group trip destination in September 2011. Four of my previous travelers (Beth, Tom, Ruth and Bill) joined me again for another wonderful twelve day trip in this most interesting region of France.

We flew into Zurich, Switzerland and picked up our van and headed across the Swiss-French border into Colmar, our first stop, a charming city set on canals with half-timbered buildings many which are very colorful. As we were to discover, the buildings in each town in this region were more colorful than the next. Alsace is known for their storks, which nest on top of buildings wherever they can, and spotting them in their nests is a real thrill. We did see a few during our trip, although we saw plenty of empty nests along with their markings on the rooftops.

We spent several days driving on the Route des Vins (the wine route roads) through charming villages, the next even more charming than the last, winding through vineyards, stopping at wineries for tasting, and enjoying the glorious sights along the way. Most of the vineyards were loaded full of beautiful grapes and others had been picked clean from harvesting. September is harvest time and seeing the huge, narrow-legged tractors working their way through the tightly laid vineyards, or ambling down the country roads, is such a thrill. Watching the masses of grape pickers in the fields with plastic tubs on their backs and the smell of grapes lingering in the air is a feast for the senses. We were again very lucky on this trip to have gorgeous weather to enhance the pleasures.

Strasbourg is a charming city situated on the Rhine River. Canals encircle the city center and from the canals you have a different view of the city. The cathedral Notre Dame is the highest medieval building in Europe, complete with an astronomical clock located inside the church - an amazing mechanical invention. We visited several interesting museums showcasing local traditions. We wandered around the European Parliament building as well as the Council of Europe, which are set in a lovely tree-lined area with the canals passing by.

We drove to the Lorraine region and spent a couple of days in Nancy and a day in Metz. This region is always associated with Alsace, but is very different in all aspects: building styles, topography, and food to name a few. We could almost see immediately the difference when leaving one region and heading into the other. Nancy has an exquisite area called the Place Stanislaus with very ornate gold gilded building and gates. We were lucky enough to witness a wedding procession of a Moroccan/Tunisian couple who were parading through the huge square, accompanied by musicians and lots of hollering. A fun encounter! Our hotel was just down the street from the area where the weekly flea market is held, so we had a leisurely Sunday strolling through the narrow cobbled-stoned streets eyeing lots of wonderful old French antiques. Fortunately, or unfortunately, none of us had room left in our suitcases for much of anything more.

Metz (pronounced Mess) is a smaller city but quite pretty as it is set on the Moselle River which winds its way through the town. It was a great place for photography. We were sitting in an outdoor caf� enjoying a cool drink as the temps were in the high 90's, when we noticed a television crew filming the employees at the caf� we were at. Next thing we knew, the film crew approached us and wanted to interview this group of Americans - "as few Americans visit our beautiful city". So there I was being filmed for the local evening news about our visit to this capital of the Lorraine region. Unfortunately, we weren't staying in the city that night so we weren't able to see the interview, but we had our 2 minutes of fame in the northeast area of France.

We ate and drank very well during this trip. The food is very Germanic, as Alsace has had a long history of being French, being taken over by the Germans and this repeated itself many times. We had lots of meat, potatoes, sauerkraut, plenty of wonderful white wines and beers, all from the region. Alsace also has a specialty called Tartiflette, and in Lorraine the specialty is ... Quiche Lorraine. Similar but unique in their own way.

My motto after each trip is, "Another wonderful trip in a beautiful region of France with a great group of people".


Contact me at sara@villat.org or at (925) 691-4559.