Thursday, March 19, 2015

Travel Diaries: Alsace, France

Clockwise fro top left: Petite France; View from Mont Sainte Odile- the highest peak in Strasourg; Village Riquewhir and Colmar

When I am not traveling for work, I am traveling for myself- I don't want to say it's either work OR pleasure because my work is fun and never feels like it. I have been lucky enough to have stumbled into an industry that allows me to do lots of it, and I'm nowhere near done.

I decided to go to France on a personal trip las January and although I was a bit iffy because it was winter, and I don't do too well in extremely cold temperatures, I decided to give it a go. I had never experienced a European winter before and what better place to do so than France? What I could not get in good weather, I knew I could make up for in good food (Seriously, French BREAD and French BUTTER- forget about all the rest! I could eat just that forever) and nice architecture- and also WINE!  SO off I went in the dead of winter, not really knowing what -2 C really meant.

Bam. It hit me like a high speed truck. The cold was hard to ignore and even with my layers of clothing, wool tights and thick scarves, I could still feel myself shivering under everything. I was definitely not in the islands anymore. Nevertheless, I managed to spend the day AND enjoy Disneyland Paris, before the four hour car ride to Strasbourg, where I was to spend most of my trip.

Strasbourg is closer to Germany than it is to Paris, and even the look and feel of the city is more German than French. The architecture will remind you of Beauty and the Beast, and everything about it seems of a different world- or out of a movie. Paris may have all the glitz and glam, but cities all over France all have different looks and personalities, and this one definitely has an old world charm to it.

My favorite part of the city is Petite France, the town center where they kept the old look of the city. It's like a post card and almost too pretty when you see it in pictures. Here you will find traditional French restaurants, patisseries and cafes studded between boutiques and high street stores. When you see the traditional buildings/ houses, you would think it's just for show but people actually live in them!
Clockwise from top left: Village Riquewhir an hour away from Strasbourg is on of the most beautiful villages in France-officially; Foie Gras in a gingerbread spice mixture and pan fried; In front of the European Parliament, whose home is in Strasbourg and Mont D'Or- the only cheese you need to eat for the rest of your days.

The food in the Alsace region is something to note as well. First of all, I tried foie gras for the first time breaded in this spiced bread mixture that was like gingerbread flavored and pan-fried. I don't think I should have eaten as much as I did that day because I food coma'd immediately after but it was something I had never tried before and it was so delicious. They also have something called Tarte Flambe that I love- it's dough rolled flat, and topped with creme fraiche, lardons, onions and cheese- pizza if you will, but not really. If you are a cheese lover, DO NOT miss Mont D'Or if you are there in the colder months- it would be a crime not to be able to enjoy this melty goodness.

If you have a few days to spare, ride about an hour out of the city to experience more of the region. Village Riquewhir and Colmar are only an hour car ride away and are like Petite France on crack. You seriously expect someone like Belle to open a window and start singing and you want to knock on the walls to check if they are real and not made of wood or cardboard like they do on sets. Really worth a visit and I'm sure even more beautiful when they weather isn't so biting cold. Mont Sainte Odile is also a great place for photos as it has an awesome view from all the way on top. I must say that in this case, winter probably works in this location's favor. The old monastery looked gorgeous in a blanket of snow.

You can reach Strasbourg through Paris and a 2 hour train ride or 4 hour car ride or Frankfurt through a 2 hour car ride. I love France and am thinking of going back this year, possibly in August (Yay Summer) but this time to Bordeaux on the other side of the country. Fingers crossed I can leave work, and YOLO my way to another personal trip in a few months :)

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