Today, our last excursion day of the cruise, we have our choice of two long half-day tours in this wine producing region along the Alsatian wine road, the route des vins which hugs the foothill of the Vosges mountain range. You could go to the Colmar, a beautiful larger city or visit two picturesque villages along the route. Of course, Boris had to blaze his own trail and took Wendall (Sharon’s husband) along; they are going to visit WWI battlefields and the German trenches at Col du Linge and Hartsmanwillerkopf. That leaves Darrell to take care of the girls (Kim, Sharon, and Jean). He’s a good sport and was in our favor, except when he asked for the receipts from our shopping to share with the husbands.
We once again have our guide from Strasbourg. The ride out is lovely with terraced farming and vineyards along the way. We even saw more of the stork nests. Control of this wine-producing region has gone back and forth between Germany and France. As we drove along, we saw little plots here and there; all the harvesting is done by hand.
The first village was Kaysersberg with the stream running through it and the remains of a 12th century castle on the terraced hillside. You thought you had stepped into a fairytale. Even the walking path from the coach park to the main street was bordered by vines of green grapes still growing in anticipation of a fall harvest.
Our guide gave us a little overview of the village and walked us to the church in the center of the village. She also pointed out the free toilets (as every good guide must) and the best vantage point for photographing the castle, before giving us free time. Darrell and Kim had already gone off shopping. Sharon hung with me for a while while I took photos and then we split up to do a little shopping.
Kim picked out a great hat and is all ready for a tea party or the Kentucky Derby. This is a girl after my own heart; I love hats. I had to drag Sharon out of the shops as the tour group was leaving. She was mostly just looking, but didn’t want to miss any minute of opportunity.
As we left Kaysersberg, our guide pointed out the leprosarium just outside of the village. These were places of quarantine. It was a little house outside the city walls. The people could, under limited conditions, enter the city but had to be outside when the gates closed at night. As we drove on to our next stop, we saw the remains of medieval castles. These fortifications were dismantled by the French in the 1700s.
In route to Riquewihr, our guide told us about some of the other features of the region. With the industrial revolution, people had moved down from the mountains and populated the area. In modern times, the Rhine was harnessed for hydro power with 11 hydro power plants along the Rhine in France. Farmers in the area also receive corn subsidies, making profit on the subsidies not on the sale of corn; subsidies are provide to prevent massive imports of corn from the United States. In France, the corn is not commonly consumed but used to feed cattle.
Our guide will be leaving us in Riquewihr. She walked us into the town and pointed out a few things. She recommended going into one of the many tasting rooms to try the local wines. She mentioned the sparkling and I was all over that. We also had the chance to try a couple of the local treats including the best coconut macaroons I have ever eaten. I bought a variety pack to take home, liking the orange-flavored the best. We also tried a Alsatian specialty, flammekuchen, a flat bread topped with onions and bacon. It was fabulous.
I milled up and down the sloping high street taking pictures of the half timber houses and beautiful window boxes. This section of the city looks unchanged since the 1600s, although clearly everything is freshly painted and the shops offer up to date items.
I ended up popping into one of the winery outlets with a cellar tasting room. I tried the sparking wines. For 5 euros you got a flight of 4. I had a taste of each of their 3 sparkling wines and a rose. I actually only liked one of them and purchased a bottle to take home with me.
When I came out of the tasting room it started to rain so that was my excuse to duck into a few of the shops.
I ventured into a store selling linens in colors and designs of the type I have seen in French themed stores in the United States. I felt fortunate to find some napkins to go with a tablecloth I had purchased in Strasbourg and then found another tablecloth to celebrate with as well. While they add weight to the bag, I did not have the same concerns with packing as I had with the pottery. Since Boris and I are leaving to fly home out of Bassel, Switzerland and making a connection in Frankfurt, we have pretty limited weight allowances on our luggage due to the smaller plane.
It was a delightful day and a photographer’s dream. We enjoyed the ride back in and were surprised when Wendall and Boris met us shortly after our late lunch. I did some of the packing and then met Sharon at the pool. Our ship is one of the few riverboats that actually has a pool aboard. We lounged there for a while and eventually the boys came and collected us. I finished the packing and then enjoyed dinner with our river cruise friends.
Uniworld offers an additional savings if you book aboard. You just fill out a sheet and then they contact you later about the particulars. We think we will come back to France on our next journey. After two back-to-back cruises, one ocean, one river, I am headed home to the Texas heat and to celebrate Rocky’s college graduation. Here’s to the next adventure…