Alsace

Winstub Restaurant Readers may disabuse me but I think this is a first: the Winstub in the small Alsace wine village of Itterswiller was offering an “Age d’Or” prix fixe menu – for over 60s. Three courses, two glasses of wine and coffee for around £25. 

Don’t tell our GP but we wanted a little more than two glasses of wine each, so we went for the midweek “formule” – three courses for €21.80 including a bavette (skirt) of beef in a delicious wine reduction with Pommes Dauphinoises and a dessert of fromage blanc with strawberries. It was, we agreed, stunning value.

But whether it was a half litre of very decent Riesling for €15 or a huge ham omelette with salad for lunch at an outside table in Colmar for €6, that was our overall impression of prices in Alsace. Perhaps, we speculated, it is the nearness of Germany, now arguably western Europe’s best value destination, which rubs off on this region of eastern France.

Kaysersberg Germany lies across a flat alluvial plain where the Rhone forms the border. The jostling vineyards of Alsace sit at the foot of the Vosges mountains. The uplands of the Black Forest darken the horizon to the east. You are probably familiar with broad brush of the region’s recent history: it was fought over during three wars in under 80 years, changing hands four times. But it still grimly fascinating to see memorials which, along with the usual lists of the dead, honour Alsatians forcibly conscripted by the Nazis to fight – as the inscription in Riquewihr notes – for a cause universally objected to.

Hitler made Alsatians speak German, even change their names so it should be no surprise that French is the first language, but there remains plenty of cross border influence: the ubiquitous choucroute garni, for example is Sauerkraut with sausages, ham and perhaps pork ribs; a winstub is a Wein Stube across the Rhine; grape names may be pinot or Gewürztraminer and the aforementioned Riesling; the region’s greatest treasure, the 16th century Isenheim Altarpiece, was painted and sculpted by two Germans, respectively Matthias Grunewald and Niclaus of Hagenau.

Kaysersburg The altarpiece can be seen temporarily in Colmar’s Dominican church while its permanent home, the city’s excellent Unterlinden Museum, undergoes a major expansion. It was created originally for the church of St Anthony in nearby Isenheim. Whatever else you do in Alsace, spare time to linger over it  and ponder the impact it made when it first appeared, some five centuries ago.

Colmar, the region’s capital, is a lovely city. Park on the fringes of the old centre and walk in through Petite Venise (Little Venice), where motorized punts glide, laden with tourists and steered by guides commentating on the buildings which crowd the narrow waterways. Wander through the Place de l’Ancienne Douane – the old customs building – with its elegant fountain by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who also designed the Statue of Liberty. Keep looking up at the richness of its architecture, not least the striking Pfister House, built in 1537, with its corner oriel window and murals.

Petite Venise, Colmar Many of Colmar’s buildings have half timbered walls, which are characteristic of the region. Chimney puts are crowned with storks’ nests. There is such a plethora of photogenic small town villages, mostly set among a sea of vineyards which seems to lap at their doorsteps, that you soon begin to feel sated: Kaysersberg, birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, with its fortified bridge and overbearing castle; Riquewihr – brave the tourist hordes to stroll along its wonderful Grand’Rue; the gorgeous little town of Barr with its ancient houses and fine town hall square; Andlau, whose abbey crypt contains a remarkable 13th century pieta; Itterswiller, where we began, with so many wine “caves” I gave up counting, where vines were trained in arches across the main street; and Eguisheim, where we finished, so atmospheric after dark you could imagine yourself back in the Renaissance.

Grand'Rue Riquewihr On a hot night in Eguisheim, at Le Pavillon Gourmand, another top value prix fixe dinner included two dishes with a German accent white asparagus with ham ( for this was the tail end of the asparagus season, which is celebrated in Alsace much as it is across the border) and rum soaked Kougelhopf – the cake with the hole in the middle. It would have been delicious at any price but at around £50 for two the aftertaste seemed all the more satisfying.

How
The Brays drove to Alsace, crossing from Dover to Calais with P&O Ferries (the Club Lounge supplement is always worth it for the comfort and light meal menu – plus a free glass of champagne, coffee and biscuits and newspapers). The drive takes around 6hrs. We stayed at the Hotel Arnold in Itterswiller – the Winstub is its separate restaurant, and the Hotel St. Hubert  (B&B only) in Eguisheim. Both were excellent, offering substantial buffet breakfasts.

228 people found this helpful
17842

Share Article:

Roger Bray

Travel writer

Leave a comment

*

Sign up to our newsletter to receive the latest travel tips on top destinations.

Join the club

Become a member to receive exclusive benefits

Our community is the heart of Silver Travel Advisor, we love nothing more than sharing ideas, inspiration, hints and tips between us.

Most Recent Articles

There are many reasons to search for alternatives to air travel – Anna Selby looks at getting to the Med…

Come feel the love on a Princess cruise. You’ll enjoy the MedallionClass experience others simply can’t, and it’s exclusively for everyone. Visit incredible destinations and be involved in the best experiences around each one of them.

Experience more with Princess and connect effortlessly with the world around you, spend time away with loved ones, take a moment for yourself, and fall in love with your holiday of a lifetime, every time.

With over 20 years of experience, Wendy Wu Tours has mastered the art of creating exceptional, fully inclusive tours which showcase the very best of each destination.

Each tour is led by a world-class guide, who will highlight the very best of their homeland, and includes authentic cultural experiences so you are not just seeing the sights, but truly immersing yourself in local life.

Say hello to ease at sea. Ambassador’s purpose is simple: they want to inspire every guest to experience authentic cruising, effortlessly and sustainably. Passionate about protecting our oceans and destinations, their ships comply with the highest industry emission standards and there is no single-use plastic on board.

On your voyage, you will receive the warmest of welcomes from the Ambassador community as you sail upon the friendliest ships afloat.

This is a global co-operative co-owned by local partners using real local experts and guides, which supports local communities, environments and wildlife. It offers travellers quirky places to stay, activity holidays and learning experiences. Not In The Guidebooks gets travellers off the beaten track into local culture with day experiences and longer, immersive adventures.

From wild wellness breaks in Wales to painting in Portugal, sustainable adventures in Mauritius to food safaris in Brazil, this is immersive, exciting travel.

Seabourn’s five intimate ships carry guests to the heart of great cities, exclusive yacht harbours and secluded coves around the world, while two new purpose-built expedition ships will combine exhilarating adventures in remote destinations with the sophisticated amenities of the world’s finest resorts at sea.

From the luxury of all suite accommodations to complimentary fine wines and spirits, and a no tipping policy, Seabourn exemplifies the definition of travelling well.