Archive for the North East France Category

Awaken to a New Year in Colmar

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Music, French Travel, North East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonne Annee mon amis,

A New Year! No mistakes as yet. Are you ready to indulge in some New Year resolutions which may involve getting out of your routine and experiencing something new? See it as doing a good deed for yourself. You know you deserve it!

Well then, my french awakening instantly puts France on your see and do holiday list for the New Year. Let me give you a taste of things to come my darlings…and follow me through the many villages and cities of France one by one- to gorgeous regions where you will be hard pressed to find better gastronomic, cultural and scenic visions and where you will want to return again and again.

Today we’re going off to the north east of France, towards the German border. In fact, this place was occupied by Germany for such a long time, so Germanic influences are evident in its cuisine and half timbered architecture. Where am I talking about? It’s Colmar!

Getting us to the very pretty capital of the Alsace white grape region is dead easy.A direct train trip from Strasbourg or Basel (Switzerland) or from Gare de l’ Est (in Paris) will do the trick! We’ll be on foot after that (some of you may choose to cycle) but either way, were not going to miss anything…

Like all these fabulous iron shop signs made mostly by the local caricaturist Jean Jacques Waltz, who mastered the art of forging squiggly iron work and a great sense of humour!

The whole place is adorable. It’s not just a museum town (as indicated on the road sign before you arrive). Yes we can visit the Unterlinden Museum and there’s also the Museum of Bartholdi, you know, the guy who sculpted New York’s Statue of Liberty in 1886. We are told that Bartholdi used his mistress as the model for the body but the face was that of his mother. Of course.

Colmar is so much more than museums and is very much alive. It’s cultural, not delicate. Homey and comfortable. The things REAL people like. (did I just say that?)

With a sprinkling of fancy boutiques like the French linen house of  Yves Delormes…

and exquistely expensive pen shop (Mont Blanc) and classic millinery…

Colmar’s Old Quarter has a casual ambience which is created more by patisseries reeling with the smell of good gingerbread (pain d’epices) while accompanied with the occasional home made bunny family decorating shop front windows like any good fete stall…

and restaurants wafting with grand mothers’ recipes of sizzling sauerkraut (which is basically the same as the French choucroute but with a German twist!), oniony quiches and the unforgettable aroma of mouth watering sausages and potatoes (baeckeoffe) with baked ham and munster cheese. Arh! One can never get enough of the delicious aromas of Colmar!

Now what do we see? We look up and above our heads hang pure shots of mediterranean red and orange geraniums spilling from wrought iron lacework balconies and again along the bridges of the canals of the Lauch river, in the Old Quarter known as “Petite Venise” (Little Venice). Strolling along is so pleasurable here.

We can choose to kick back in one of the chairs of any restaurant along the quayside…

or in the cafe terrace of the Anciennes Duoane Square (The old Customs House) just to absorb the atmosphere and perhaps some foie gras. Fancy a drink? Let’s sneak behind the statue of the Schwendi Fountain…

and nestle into one of those gorgeous heavy wooden chairs under century worn beams in a cosy Alsatian winstub (bistro). Colmar, famous for its Reisling, is a must here!

Sounds good to you? …

Some of us could venture a little further (by following our noses in the general direction of meat pie and creamy pastries) and ooze into the treats of the single minded. Enter one of eight (after counting) very casual Salon de’ The’ rooms…

A chair is waiting for you…

You’re gonna like it here! How sweet it is! Hanging bretzels on sticks above counter tops will tempt the strongest of wills but this is also the time to try Colmar’s kougelhopf- a cake/bread with a magical concoction of almonds and raisins, sugar and cinnamon baked in a traditional ceramic Kugelhopf mold and dusted with a dash of snowy icing sugar. You can always take away petite kougelhopfs and other sweet jewels to have on the way home too. Generally, they won’t make it home…How easy it is to unwind (and unfasten) in Colmar.

Much later, wander the long maze of winding streets to admire the architecture or have a play in any of the souvenir shops selling good quality iron cooking utensils and tableware.

Gaze upon the embellished roof treatments…

and the grand wooden gallery of the Renaissance built Pfister House…

(which was once residence of the bourgeoise), while standing in the footprints of famous Alsations like Marcel Marceau or Mozart. It’s possible. They both came from neighbouring Strasbourg so I’m guessing it would be a manageable trip to Colmar. (Marcel would do it silently I’m sure!)

Above it all, Colmar is friendly and unpretentious. If we arrive around Christmas time, Colmar in time honoured tradition, will entrance you with her beautiful twinkling lights and magical Christmas markets. We could build upon our decoration supplies! Being surrounded by friendly locals and warming Christmas cheer might not be all that bad for some of us!

For more information, check out the Colmar Office de Tourism at:-

http://www.ot-colmar.fr/

Happy New Year once again everyone! Let’s begin the New Year with our dreams firmly placed under our arms. I hope to see you Colmar!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2011 Therese Waddell

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Awaken to French Champagne at Castellane.

Posted in French Affair, French Travel, North East France with tags , , , , , , on September 15, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

Fancy a trip through the Champagne-Ardenne region of north east France all for the love of bubbles? Of course you do!

There are many Champagne Houses to choose from my friends around Epernay and Reims and you will often be indecisive as to which one to visit. I’ve seen many tourists and locals alike um and ahh about which House to tour.

There are so many Champagne Houses producing beautiful champagnes and intoxicating premium bubbles but there is only one for me. And that has to be Champagne de Castellane.

Head straight to 63 Avenue de Champagne, Epernay.

It’s not just the taste of Castellane which lures me. The underground tour at the Castellane Champagne House throughout the darkened tunnels or caves in Epernay is indeed very informative and gives you a great understanding of the history of the Champagne-Ardenne region as well as the bubbles!

Castellane’s English speaking tour guide is as preened and silky as a whimpet and looks as impressive as the labels on the collar of their bottles as we follow this impeccable Frenchman (well who wouldn’t?) through the underground tunnels which have been dug out for centuries.

The earthen walls, soft amber lighting and chilled temperature of the tunnels, alerted my french awakening to the very real possibility that we had been cast into Roald Dahl’s ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory’. Breaking the silence of the tunnels was the crescendo of very serious French oompa loompas driving miniature carts of rattling bottles until they disappeared into the silent darkened distance again. The whole place is surreal and wonderfully bizarre.

You will get to see the actual production process as well and the conveyor belt of beautiful champagne bottles dressing for a black tie affair with labels, collars, corks and crown caps!

Be captivated by the bottles which are older than you by a century…

or less?…

and the fact that one humble frenchman has the essential task of turning every champagne bottle by a mere fraction throughout history. Something interesting for the resume, non?

And lastly,there are the free tastings of the major Castellane’s French Chamapagne served to you by none other than our sweet tour guide.

The pop of the champagne is actually referred to as ” le soupir amoureux” which means a “loving whisper or a love sigh”.

Now that has to be good.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell