France · travel

Christmas in Europe: The Alsatian Wine Trail

Where I Went:

We followed a brief Alsatian wine trail, hugging the French border and stopping at a handful of little towns along the way. Obernai was first, followed by Riquewhir, Egguisheim, and Colmar.

Obernai:

Obernai had three to four small markets in connected squares, each one offering something different from the others. One was primarily for children with a tent for adults to warm up next to the carousel. Another was all food- which Obernai is famous for- chesnuts, pates, potted mushrooms, soft cheeses, meats, and candies. Another was full of ciders, wines, beers- hot and cold. The main square had a large Christmas tree decorated with fruits beside a stable with donkeys and sheep. It was surrounded by ornament stalls of little handmade fairies in French fabrics, copper geometric modern ornaments, and traditional burned wood. Everything was lovely and small- perfect for a carry-on and perfect to just treasure in the tiny sweetness of it all.IMG_20151206_152836.jpgIMG_20151206_150011.jpgIMG_20151206_145803.jpg

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Obernai’s shutter ladies
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At the petting zoo in the town square

Riquewhir:
Riquewhir was situated further down the Alsatian Wine Trail, tucked behind even smaller towns each vying for attention. In hindsight, it is probably best enjoyed during the week as on the weekends it is absolutely flooded with tour buses and visitors. There is no central market, just snaking cobblestone avenues lined with vendors. At the end of each street, we felt we had reached the limit, only to turn and see another winding road. Being a slightly larger town, Riquewhir’s regular shops stayed open past usual hours and are not to be missed. Traditional pottery and beautiful textiles abound as well as Eau de Vie shops with lots of samples. I figured this town was most likely to be selling touristy knick-knacks but, for the most part, this was not the case and actually here was where I picked up some of my best souvenirs. Plenty of stalls sold soft cheeses and cured meats along with hot pressed sandwiches, red and white gluhwein, hot cider, and enormous baguettes. Most of these seemed geared towards locals or residents of the EU as outsiders would have no way of transporting these goods home. Beautifully wrought marzipan fruits and vegetables overflowed one stall which stood next to the chestnut roaster and the glaced fruit stall. In terms of goods, Riquewhir’s were the most unique- bordering an upscale craft show. Much of it was locally produced and none of it was seen in any other town we visited- so if you go and you like something, buy it! You likely won’t see it again.

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Not a bad parking spot!
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Egguisheim:

Nestled further south (and further seated within the hills), we reached Egguisheim as the sun was setting. We had attempted Kaysersberg (which has lots of lovely reviews) but after being shooed away from all available parking, we gave up and headed here. Virtually no crowds were to be found in Egguisheim and truly it felt like purely locals visited the markets. The town itself is quite small and it hosted very few stalls- some of which were incredibly kitschy- but there were some highlights. For traditional straw crafts, they were only spotted here. They also had local liqueur, vinegar, and oil producers along with wonderful busking musicians. The square was lit up with a nativity with a glowing purple church behind it all. A bit quirky and a good short stop on the way to Colmar.
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Colmar:

Colmar was the largest of the cities we visited and probably our least favorite. Many people love Colmar, and perhaps it is better appreciated during the Spring and Summer or at the very least at dusk rather than when quite dark. In any case, it was a bit of a fiasco getting in which put a major damper on our moods. Surprisingly, there were more English speakers in the smaller towns than Colmar and navigating became a bit tricky with so few people understanding what we were asking (pantomiming seemed to help!). There are numerous markets at different squares in Colmar, each selling fairly similar things: pressed cookies, soaps, candles, laser cut wood ornaments, and the like. We ate at an unassuming restaurant off the main square and had a sort of skillet hash- ham, onions, hash browns, mushrooms- all swimming in a hollandaise-type sauce. Not bad, not great but huge portions. It was probably the least favorite of the towns we visited but with a grain of salt that 1) it was our last stop and we were tired, 2) it had gotten considerably colder, and 3) larger cities really stress my mom out. Take away those few things and the city was, in all honesty, charming in its austerity, jovial with its large carousel and skating rink, and full of perfectly good, local trinkets.

 

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 The French Haul:

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