This post is all about my long weekend in Colmar, Alsace! For those unfamiliar with the region, Alsace is the Germanic region of France lying on France’s Eastern border next to Germany. Throughout history the Alsace has switched off between French and German rule and as a result, the Alsace retains its own culture, food and even language that is not quite French but not quite German, either. In any case, I have been wanting to visit Alsace for years! Actually since college, when a French professor that I didn’t particularly like went on and on and on about her time in Strasbourg (Alsace’s capital). I always envisioned staying in Strasbourg, the biggest city in Alsace and home of European Union offices, but in planning my trip I kept reading about Colmar, the picturesque town a short train ride from Strasbourg.
Since the first part of my trip consisted of two large cities (Stuttgart and Munich, Germany), I opted to stay in Colmar over Strasbourg, and it was the perfect decision for my trip (although Strasbourg is pretty fabulous, too). I mean, look at these canals lined with timber-framed buildings, which were everywhere (!):
Médoc is one of the most famous Bordeaux wine regions, possibly only second in fame to St. Émilion. Médoc is located northwest of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Gironde River, and Médoc is further separated into many sub regions (it gets very technical)! In short (you could talk about this forever), each sub region has a specific terroir – a French word describing the air, sun, rain, soil, etc. in that specific region that gives grapes grown there a particular taste. On our visit, we visited two châteaux, one in the Listrac-Médoc and one in Margaux. Both châteauxs specialized in bold red wines, with lots of cabernet sauvignon grapes!
I will start off by disclosing that this is a companion piece to my recent post My Day in St. Émilion Without A Tour Company! You will see some of the same pictures and read some of the same facts, but this post is meant to provide a more detailed guide to exploring and planning St. Émilion without a tour guide! As I have mentioned before, St. Émilion is an absolutely stunning medieval French town located 40 minutes outside of Bordeaux. St. Émilion is known for two things: its robust red wines and its well preserved, medieval old town. As you can imagine, both of those draw big crowds and St. Émilion is hugely popular with tourists, especially the upscale crowd! Think lots of swanky hotels, numerous Michelin starred restaurants, and some of the best red wines that can be found…
As you may know from reading my Wine Cruising to Sauternespost, there are, to many tourists surprise, no vineyards or wine châteaux in the city of Bordeaux! All of the châteaux that make the famous “Bordeaux wine” are located in designated areas around Bordeaux. St. Émilion is one of those areas and in my opinion, is the easiest and best Bordeaux wine region to visit on your own (i.e. without joining a tour) from Bordeaux!
St. Emilion vineyards
St. Émilion is world renowned for its full-bodied red wines. But St. Émilion is also an extremely well preserved medieval town that is complete with a unique system underground passageways, wine cellars and even an underground church! As you can imagine, St. Émilion is a very popular day trip from Bordeaux and all of the tour companies offer day trips to St. Émilion from Bordeaux, starting €80,00/person and going up from there. However, St. Émilion is easily accessible from Bordeaux by train on your own, so that is what we did. St. Émilion was my favorite day trip out of Bordeaux and a “must do” for anyone in the area!
Le Restaurant Bar Andre is most certainly the most famous restaurant in La Rochelle, France (if you are unfamiliar with La Rochelle, read about it here). Restaurant Andre is located right in the heart of La Rochelle, in its Vieux Port just below La Rochelle’s iconic towers. Restaurant Andre has been open since 1947 and now occupies a web of dining rooms, each with a slightly different sea theme. Restaurant Andre is an excellent place to try some of La Rochelle’s fresh seafood and a place to check off your La Rochelle bucket list!
Dan and I visited the city of Bordeaux and its surrounding wine regions in June 2016. For those unfamiliar with Bordeaux wine, there are no actual vineyards in the city of Bordeaux (it is a regular city with a large university). The famous “Bordeaux wine” comes from a number of small regions surrounding Bordeaux. Wines take their name from the specific small region in which their grapes are grown, and the flavor of grapes that make up the wine derives from the “terroir” of each specific area (roughly translated as a combination of the soil content, temperature, rain fall, sunlight, etc. of the individual region). See the map of the many wine regions and sub-regions surrounding Bordeaux:
La Rochelle is a beautiful French seaside town located on the mid-Atlantic coast in the Charente-Maritime province of France, and I just got back from spending a long weekend there! La Rochelle is known to be popular with French vacationers, particularly Parisians. However, it is not very well-known in the US, and I probably would never have visited La Rochelle except my college (yay University of Richmond!) had a study abroad program there (I opted for Paris) – and I have a “map of France” t-shirt from Anthropologie that features La Rochelle… In addition to being featured on an Anthropologie shirt, La Rochelle is quite historical, as it has been around since antiquity, and is the port from which French settlers left for the new world (i.e. Quebec!).