For 2016 we have a new tour – Alsace.
Alsace is way over in the east of France, sharing a border with Germany. France and Germany have played ‘pass-the-parcel’ with Alsace for centuries, and the fusion of French and German cultures makes Alsace unique. And it works – Alsace boasts dozens of beautiful medieval villages, some of the world’s finest white wines, and a cuisine unique within France.
I’ve chosen four things that I think make Alsace a bit special. Please have a read, tell me if I hit the mark. And you can click on any photo to enlarge it.
1. Their wines.
Alsace has a huge wine-making tradition dating back centuries. If you can picture the region, its bordered on the East by the river Rhine and on the West by the Vosges mountains. The vineyards run along the eastern slopes at the foot of the Vosges, and this the key to the beautiful, distinctive Alsace wines.
The Vosges form a climatic boundary that gives Alsace dry summers and warm autumns, so the grapes can ripen long into September and beyond. The wines are mostly white (there are some reds made using Pinot Noir), mostly ‘varietal'(wines made using a single grape variety), and divided between the 4 ‘noble’ grape varieties and the rest. Let us not concern ourselves with the rest, let’s have a look at the ‘nobles’.
2. The ‘route-des-vins’.
Cycling through these vineyards is delightful, whether or not they ever made any wine in them. The route through villages like Riquewihr, Eguisheim and Obernai would make Alsace a cyclist’s dream.
3. This Is An International Tour!
Alsace is a unique region within France. It is separated from Germany by a river, the Rhine, which you can cross by any number of borderless bridges and ferries. But it is separated from France by a mountain range, The Vosges.
Lots of people speak German, some elderly residents may barely speak French, and many people will also speak the Alsatian dialect, although we’ll do well to hear it spoken.
But rather than enjoy the ‘Germanness’ of Alsace, we plan to pedal over the border to look at the Germanness of Germany proper.
4. Strasbourg Cathedral.
Strasbourg is beautiful, it is historically important and politically important, and is the capital of Alsace. Importantly for us you can cycle into the heart of Strasbourg – and out the other side – on cycle paths built along rivers and canals.
But frankly you can keep all that … come and have a look at the Cathedral. It’s amazing, probably my single favourite place in Alsace.
And finally … Enjoy Toby’s Alsace photos on Flickr, here.