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Alsace

Photo by Zvardon

Alsace Itineraries

Alsace Wine Route and Food Tour

Colmar: A Tour of France’s Most Enchanting City

Mulhouse in Two Days

Strasbourg: A Captivating Cultural Trip

Vosges Mountains: Adventures in Alsace

Spectacular vineyards surrounding storybook Alsatian villages

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Alsace is an eastern region of France that sits snug up against the west bank of the Rhine River on the German border. The countryside rolls out toward the 4,672 ft/1,424 meter Vosges Mountains inviting slow travel and frequent stops. Skip the highways and drive the picturesque back roads that connect charming walled towns and fertile hillside vineyards.

Since it is the smallest of all French regions, you can explore the entire province during a week-long vacation. Add on additional days to linger in the historic districts of Strasbourg, Colmar, and Mulhouse.  Or leisurely drive the wine route.

Alsace is a year-round vacation spot for outdoor activities. May through September is best for sightseeing, hiking, biking, and water sports. Winters are dry and cold — ideal for Christmas markets, cozy wine pubs, mountain-top snow sports, and exploring museums. As you travel, you’ll understand why both France and Germany have coveted and fought over this narrow strip of land for hundreds of years. Evidence of both countries’ influence is scattered through Alsatian architecture, foods, dress, and traditions.


Top Alsatian Cities

Strasbourg is the largest city in Alsace and the seat of several government institutions, including the European Union. An island, Grande Île, is the historic center with two areas designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Le Petite France is on the far western end of the island. The Neustadt district is on the northern end. Must-see sites include the 15th century Strasbourg Cathedral, Rohan Palace, and Vauban Dam, a defensive structure built in the 1600s that today is topped by a terrace with panoramic views of the old town.

Colmar is smaller than Strasbourg and has a canal-front historic district called La Petite Venise. Historic buildings represent 800 years of German and French architecture. Pedestrian-friendly cobblestone streets make it quite easy to visit the amazing sites. Don’t miss Église Saint-Martin, a church constructed during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its side chapels contain a treasure chest of sculptures and altars created during Gothic and Renaissance times. Also, be on the lookout for statues by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, creator of America’s Statue of Liberty. He was born in Colmar, and his birthplace is now a museum of his work.

Mulhouse is the second largest city in Alsace and designated a City of Art and History (Ville d’Art et d’Histoire). Its historic buildings and unique heritage date back to Roman times. The sprawling metropolitan area is famous for its transportation museums, Cité de l’Automobile and Cité du Train. Also, the city has a 62-acre/25 hectare botanical garden and zoo that started in 1868 and now houses approximately 1200 animals, many endangered.


===> See the RELATED links below to explore local itineraries.


Castles from the Alsace of Old

Castle ruins stand guard on several hillsides overlooking ancient Alsatian towns. HautKoenigsbourg (Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg), a 12th-century fortress near the town of Sélestat, is the most famous and best restored. Kaiser Wilhelm II rebuilt the castle in 1899, expecting Alsace to return to German control, but the architecture and weaponry are from the Middle Ages.

Free-flying eagles love Kintzheim Castle (Château de Kintzheim), a medieval citadel in ruins above the village of Kintzheim. The beautiful birds of prey soar a few feet above castle visitors who watch a thrilling show that includes vultures and buzzards.

The ruins of Fleckenstein Castle (Château de Fleckenstein) overlook the Valley of the Sauer River (Rivière Sûre) near Wissembourg on the French/German border. Built in the 12th century on a sandstone rock face, the stronghold stood for 400 years before it fell to French troops in 1680. The remaining tower and rooms hacked into the cliffs are still in good shape, and the mountaintop views are spectacular.


Villages and Vineyards on the Alsatian Wine Route

Allow a couple of days to explore villages and vineyards along the Wine Route (Route des Vins ). Storybook towns grow Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Muscat grapes. Local restaurants, some with Michelin stars, serve a mix of French and German cuisine to accompany local wines. With additional time include a trip into the mountains along the Crest Road (La Route des Cretes). This forest road, built by the French High Command during World War I, features ancient ruined castles, modern natural-springs spas, and still-standing forts and trenches. Hikers and bikers will enjoy the trails through the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges.


Don’t forget to click on the yellow bar above for Alsace details about when to gowhat it coststransportation; and background information that digs deeper into the Alsacian culture, cuisine, and languages.


When To Go

Alsatians like to celebrate, and each town holds fairs, festivals, and street events throughout the year. Visit the websites for the office of tourism in Strasbourg or Colmar for a current list of upcoming events.

Christmas markets take place in almost every village from late November until the end of the year, and it’s possible to jump from place to place in search of unique products and seasonal entertainment.  If you can only visit one, make it the Colmar Christmas Market.

Along the Wine Road, villages rotate fairs to avoid competition and stretch out the fun. From April through October, residents organize parades, dress in local costumes, and sample plenty of wine. Visitors are always welcome.

The Colmar Wine Fair has been an annual event for more than 60 years. It takes place at Parc des Expositions each August.

Mulhouse hosts an annual 3-day Car Festival each summer featuring parades, shows, and an outstanding exhibit of exceptional cars.

Jazz festivals are popular music events in many Alsatian towns. One of the best is Jazz d’Or, a 2-week event held in Strasbourg each winter, with performances by more than 100 musicians from around the world.

How Much Time To Spend

A week in Alsace will allow time to spend two days in both Strasbourg and Colmar, an additional day exploring Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, and two days touring the smaller villages along the Route des Vins.

If you can extend your vacation by a few days, see the car and train museums in Mulhouse,
visit the reconstructed historic town at Ecomusee d’Alsace located between Colmar and Mulhouse,
and drive the Route des Crêtes through the Vosges Mountains.

High and Low Season

The most popular times to visit the Alsace region of France are during the summer months and throughout December, when Christmas markets take over the towns.

You will benefit from fewer crowds and lower prices at other times of the year. Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons in April, May, September, and October, when the weather is pleasant and kids are in school so fewer families are traveling.

During the winter, ski resorts in the Vosges Mountain are popular with cross-country and downhill skiers. The largest resort is at La Bresse.

Weather and Climate

Alsace weather tends toward hot summers and bone-chilling winters. The region is too far north to benefit from the Mediterranean climate of southern France.

During the summer, expect little rain, a lot of sunshine, and temperatures in the upper 80s (F).

Winter temperatures linger around 32 degrees (F) and the higher elevations get abundant snow.

While the plains see less snow, skies at these lower elevations are often overcast and fog frequently lingers through much of the day.

Spring weather is slow coming some years, and flowers don’t come into full bloom until mid to late May.

Autumn, however, may hang on through October, which makes this an ideal time to hike the forests or stroll through the vineyards.

Events and Holidays

French Holidays include:

January 1st New Year’s Day

Good Friday and Easter Monday

May 1st or the first Monday in May

May 14th   Ascension Day

July 14th Bastille Day

August 15th Assumption Day (not UK, Netherlands, Scandinavia, parts of Germany)

December 25th: Christmas Day

December 26th: Boxing Day or St Stephens Day

Additional Alsatian holidays are listed online at Feiertage Europa

Time Zone

Alsace is on Central European Time and observes Daylight Saving Time annually from the last Sunday in March until the last Sunday in October.

Central European Time is GMT: Greenwich Mean Time 1:00.

To check the local time in Alsace, click here.

What To Pack and Wear

Bring along a rain jacket, even in summer. While it rarely rains all day, be prepared.

You do not need to be as fashion conscious in Alsatian cities as you do in Paris, but dress conservatively when you visit museums and churches. Jeans are fine for sightseeing, but pack one outfit for eating out or attending a chic event in the evening. Men should bring along slacks, collared shirts and a sports coat; women should bring stylish slacks and tops or a dress that can be accessorized, and don’t forget comfortable shoes with at least a low heel for after dark.

Wear comfortable walking shoes during the day.

In winter, pack a down jacket, gloves, and a knit hat. Consider adding thermal underwear if you expect to be hiking or taking walking tours.

In summer, bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a sun hat. Also throw in a wrap, sweater, or jacket for evenings and air conditioned buildings.

What it Costs

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in Euros (€).

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
€ => Tickets less than €15 per person
€€ => Tickets €15- €30 per person
€€€ => Tickets €30 per person

Sleep — Out of town/rural
€ => Rooms less than €60 for a double
€€ => Rooms €60 – €100 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €100 for a double

Sleep — Large Cities
€ => Rooms less than €100 for a double
€€ => Rooms €100 – €150 for a double
€€€ => Rooms €150 for a double

Eat
€=> €5- €10 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€ => €10 – €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
€€€ => €25 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop 
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
€ => Tickets less than €25 per person
€€ => Tickets €25 – €50 per person
€€€ => Tickets €50 per person

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.

But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites. That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings. European operators such as easyJet, Ryanair, Air France-KLM, Jet2,  British Airways, Flybe, and Lufthansa offer an extensive range of routes in Europe.

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping. Also consider the advantages of booking your car through Auto Europe to get rate comparisons from several major rental companies, free 48-hour cancellation, and a service hotline that provides assistance 24/7.

All the major car rental companies such as Hertz, Avis  Europcar, Sixt, National Citer, and  Budget. Agencies operate at
the airports and train stations in Strasbourg and Mulhouse.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) Europe goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.

Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical — Travellers within Europe from European Union member states should obtain an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) card which entitles them to healthcare on the same terms as citizens from the country they are visiting. This is a reciprocal agreement which means for example that EEA visitors to the UK will receive free care in NHS hospitals in the same way that UK residents do.  Some countries e.g. France make a charge known as a patient contribution for GP visits or stays in hospital for both their own citizens and visitors from the EEA. Even so, travellers are well advised to have additional medical insurance to cover for example the cost of repatriation, mountain rescue in ski resorts and other emergencies.

For travellers from outside the European Union the cost of health services in Europe, while not as high as in the US for example, can be relatively expensive for the uninsured. For this reason it is essential to consider purchasing medical insurance. If you have a Health Care Plan back home it may cover you for most situations which arise abroad but you need to check this out and in any case additional medical travel insurance will cover you for private health care or other expenses.

Some countries outside the European Union have a reciprocal agreement for healthcare with certain European countries.  For example Switzerland has an agreement with all European Union countries and Australia has agreements with the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and others. It pays to check before leaving home.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travellers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip is expensive it’s essential and even if it isn’t it’s certainly a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Your English or other European language skills are also crucial because insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?


Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.

Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

In Europe the largest insurers are Allianz, Axa and Zurich but there are many smaller providers such as insureandgo and Direct Line.

Pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition or charge an additional premium related to the condition.  Some companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.

Exchange Rates and Currency

The main currency of Europe is the Euro which is currently used in 25 countries a few of which are not even EU members. Some countries within the European Union have retained their original currency including the UK (Pound), Denmark (Kroner) and Poland (Zloty). Most non-EU countries such as Switzerland (Swiss Franc) and Turkey (Lira) continue to use their own currency. All are decimalised and have 100 ‘pennies’ in each main unit.

Euros come in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 notes. They vary in size from 120mm x 62mm (€5) to 160mm x 82mm (500) and colour, so it is easy to differentiate between them. All feature European architecture throughout the ages. (Smaller businesses may not accept the larger notes, so plan to have €20s or smaller notes in hand)

There are eight denominations of euro coin: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent plus a €1 and €2 coin. All have a common side and a national side. Remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!

UK pounds come in £1 (Scotland and N. Ireland and used only in these two countries), £5, £10, £20 and £50 and, like euro notes, come in different sizes ranging from 135mm x 70mm (£5) to 156mm x 85mm (£50) and all are different colours. The pound is often referred to by its slang name of a ‘Quid’.

There are eight denominations of British coin: 1p (penny), 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p plus a 1£ and £2 coin.  All feature Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse side and a segment of the UK Coat of Arms on the reverse side except the £2 coin which features a variety of designs. Again remember to spend all coins before you leave – they can’t be exchanged!

Many travellers like to have a small amount of local currency when they arrive in a country but this is becoming less and less important as ATMs and Bureaux de Change appear everywhere especially in transport terminals.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs

If you get money from an ATM machine abroad you will usually incur charges (typically 1.5 or 2% per transaction)

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Europe.

Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary.If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.

Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

The good news for travellers in Europe is that you don’t need to get stressed about tipping – you don’t have to do it and when you do it really should reflect good or excellent service rather than be something you are expected to do. On the whole workers in tourism are reasonably well paid and don’t depend upon tips to make up their wages. In some cases over-tipping can be embarrassing for all concerned.

Restaurants

Many restaurants include a ‘service’ charge in the price so check and, if it isn’t mentioned, then a tip of between 5 – 10% is quite enough. Even where it is included but you feel that you’ve had really excellent service then the same amount is adequate but ensure that your server receives this by handing it directly to them.

Other methods are to add a euro/pound or two for each member of the party or round up the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros/pounds.

In the UK many restaurants add an ‘optional’ amount to the bill when you are paying with plastic, but in many cases the servers don’t receive any of this and it simply becomes an extra profit for the owner. The server won’t mind if you decline to do this!

Taxis
With taxis, just round up to the next euro or pound for a short journey or, for a long ride, to the nearest ten. Again 10% is the maximum you should consider unless of course the driver carries your bags into the hotel or airport when a little more will be appreciated.

Hotels
You may wish to give the porter a euro or pound for each bag he carries but, while it will be appreciated, it is not normally expected. Similarly you may wish to leave a small tip for the housekeeping staff, especially if they have been particularly helpful, but this is completely up to you.

Other costs:
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between €10 (£7.50) and €40 (£30) per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, insect repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery, super/hypermarkets and pharmacies will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Getting There

Airports
Check airfares from your European or North American gateway city to EuroAirport (EAP), which is located two miles outside Basel Switzerland, near the German border. This international airport is only 12miles from Mulhouse, France, and you may be able to save on airfare by using this as your destination rather than one of the airports in Paris or Strasbourg.

Shops, restaurants, bars, banks, and ATMs are on site. Rental cars are available on both the French (hall 1, level 2) and Swiss (hall 4, level 2) sections. Fee-based internet access is available in both the secure and public areas.

Buses transport passengers from EuroAirport in Basel/Mulhouse to nearby train stations in  Switzerland, Germany, and France.

Strasbourg Airport (SXB) is six miles southwest of Strasbourg in the town of Entzheim. More than a million passengers arrive each year on 200 direct and connecting flights.

This modern airport offers free Wi-Fi internet access, ATMs, and two waiting areas (one equipped with recharging stations for portable devices). A full-menu bistro and a snack cafe are located on the ground floor. A regional train and tram connections zip passengers into Strasbourg in under 10 minutes for less than €4. Taxis meet flights and are available outside the terminal until 11 pm. Shops, tour operators, and car rental agencies are on site.

The TGV (Fast Train) links Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) to the Strasbourg Airport (SXB). A one-way trip takes  just over two hours, and you can transfer from plane to train without leaving the airport.

Colmar Airport (CMR) focuses on business aviation and is of little interest to leisure travelers.

Getting Around

Trains
Alsace has a good train system (TER) that links 161 railway stations, which are connected by bus to the towns. In most cases, you can bring your bike along for free. Since the Alsace region is small and towns are closely spaced, you’ll seldom be more than an hour from your next destination.

Be sure to look for special deals on tickets. Some of the bargains include a 25% discount on tickets for students (12-25 years of age), seniors (anyone older than 60 ), and families with kids under the age of 12. A Carnet de Billet (book of 5 or 10 tickets) will save you 25-40%. Two to five people can zip around all day on Saturdays, Sundays or public holidays with an all-day pass that includes travel on local trains, buses and trams.   There are restrictions on all these discount tickets, so read the offer carefully before you buy one to be sure that the limitations won’t spoil your travel plans.

Find timetables, fares and even a journey planner in English at
Strasbourg and Mulhouse have tram systems that you can use to get around town. Pick up a pass that will allow you and your bike to hop on and off the trams throughout the day.

Car

Usually, the best way to tour Alsace is by car. Unless you’re uncomfortable driving in an location, or you want to bike or hike around the region, look into renting a car for your entire vacation or just a few days.

France has an excellent highway system, and the back roads take you through stunning countryside.  Major car rental agencies have offices at the airports and train stations in Strasbourg and Mulhouse.

Transportation Hubs

EuroAirport is located near Basel, Switzerland, but only 12 miles from Mulhouse, Alsace. It is the largest airport in the area.

Background

History

A Petite History

Alsatian history is one of the most interesting in Europe. Many historians name the region as the birthplace of Hallstatt or Proto-Celtic tribes that populated Europe in the early Iron Age. Evidence of Gallo-Roman architecture was discovered on Mont Donon, the highest peak in the Vosges Mountains and a Category 2 ascent on the Tour de France. You can see some of these relics in the Archeology Museum in Strasbourg (Musée archéologique de Strasbourg).

Also in the Vosges Mountains, you can visit the remains of a Pagan Wall on Mont Saint Odile, near the Hoenburg Abbey, which was founded about  690 AD/CE by Benedictine nuns. The six-mile-long wall surrounds the mountainside, and its origin is not certain, but some historians think it may have been built by ancient Druids about 3,000 years ago. Other scholars assume the wall dates only to the time that the abbey was built. Either way, you will have awesome views from Mont Saint Odile.

So, the ancient Gauls were defeated by Julius Caesar and the Holy Roman Empire in about 55 BC.  For the next thousand years, Alsace and all of France was subject to barbarian raids, ruled by the Germanic Franks (think King Clovis I and Charlemagne), and a long line of Capetian monarchs. In 1337, the Hundred Years’ War started between the House of Plantagenet and the House of  Valois (think King of England vs King of France and Joan of Arc becoming a national hero). The French won that one in 1453.

Skip ahead to the late 18th century and the overthrow of the monarchy in the French Revolution. After the Revolution, railroads strengthened ties between Alsace and the rest of France, but in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War, Germany annexed Alsace.

When World War I began, the French aimed to get Alsace back, and they did. However, a few years later, Hitler reclaimed the area and made it part of the Third Reich. During World War II,  American and British forces avoided bombing historic parts of Alsace, which became French again after the war, and today you can visit surviving 15th- and 16th-century buildings lining quaint cobblestone streets.

Etiquette

Etiquette is actually a French word that originally referred to a list of behaviors that were acceptable at court.

Today, the French are much more relaxed about manners, but you’ll feel more at ease if you know how things are done locally.

Do expect to be kissed. When you meet friends or when friends introduce you to other friends you probably will get three cheek pecks.  However, watch for a clue about if, or how many times, you should kiss someone you don’t know. Handshakes are okay and may accompany the kisses, but the French are not big huggers. A quick squeeze is fine, but avoid the bear hugs.

Do learn and use basic French greeting before you ask a stranger for information or directions.
Try these:
Bonjour = good day
Bonsoir = good evening
Excusez-moi = excuse me (before asking a question)
Pardonnez-moi = sorry, pardon me (when moving through a crowd or bumping someone)
Parlez-vous anglais = do you speak English
Monsieur = sir
Madame = madam
Mademoiselle = miss

Do act courteously. In a restaurant, treat the wait staff with respect. In a store, smile and greet the staff  in French.  If your French is up to it, make a bit of small talk. If you can’t manage in French, apologize and ask to talk with someone who speaks English.

Don’t get a servers attention by raising your hand or clicking your fingers or shouting “garcon.” Wait staff in France go through a lot of training before they become professional servers. Most will be watching for you to nod your head or make eye contact if you need something.

Do keep your children close and quiet in shops and restaurants. Do not let them wander about and encourage them to speak in a low voice.

Do dress appropriately. When in doubt, dress up a bit, and choose fairly conservative outfits. Most French people do.

Don’t talk loudly in public, especially if you’re speaking English. You don’t want to be an  “ugly American.” Don’t shout into your cell phone, and be sure to turn off the ringer in public.

Do expect people to be late. The French don’t care about punctuality and being a few minutes late is the norm.

Don’t forget to turn out the lights, especially if you are an overnight houseguest. The French like to be economical about electricity.

Don’t leave the bathroom door even slightly ajar when you exit.

Don’t take offense if someone stands a scant inch behind you in a line. It’s a cultural thing. Personal space is undervalued in France.

At the table:

Don’t pour your own wine. Wait for a server or host to fill your glass for you. When you’ve had enough, take only small sips from your glass and don’t let the level drop too low or it will be constantly refilled.

Do keep both hands on the table, wrists resting on the edge.

Do hold your knife in your right hand, fork in your left, if you want to eat the French way. Place food in your mouth with the tines pointing down. Turn your fork over, but keep it in your left hand, to scoop up vegetable. Signal that you have finished eating by placing your knife and fork close together, parallel, handles facing you at a slight diagonal.on the plate.

Do hold your dessert spoon in your right hand.

Don’t ask for coffee until after you’ve finished your entire meal. Drink water or wine with the meal, and don’t be surprised if you have to  ask for it. Expect to get and pay for bottled water, unless you ask for a carafe of tap water: “une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.”

Do compliment the food, the host, the chef and the servers.

Do wear a jacket to dinner in the larger towns, if you’re a man. Do wear heeled dress shoes to dinner in the larger towns,  if you’re a woman..

Cuisine

Alsace has more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other French region except Île-de-France (Paris).

You’ll notice a distinct German flair to traditional dishes, and pork is the centerpiece of many menus. Alsace is also famous for making wonderful wine and beer. Be sure to sample several local varieties with your meals.

Since cuisine in Alsace is different from that served in other parts of France, ask your restaurant server for suggestions on which local wine pairs best with the meal you’ll be ordering. You can’t go wrong with almost any riesling, gewürztraminer, sylvaner or pinot noir.

Alsatian beer is influenced by nearby Germany.  Most are lagers, and the largest independent brewer is called both Fischer (German) and Pecheur (French). While you’re in the region, sample some of the micro-brews made in almost every town. You’ll notice that the local groundwater used for brewing gives the beer a somewhat tamer taste than traditional German beers.

Since many restaurants don’t offer menus in English, it’s best to know what’s in some of the most popular specialties.

Look for:

Baeckeoffe (baker’s oven) is a stew made with meat and potatoes in a white wine sauce.

Flammekueche is a pizza-like dish made with cream sauce topped with various items, such as bacon, mushrooms and onion.

Choucroute is a must-have Alsatian dish which is like sauerkraut, but unlike the German style. The shredded fermented cabbage is often made with wine and savory spices. If the menu says Choucroute Garnie, the dish is served with bacon or pork sausage and potatoes.

Fleischnacka (snail meat) is not escargot. It is meat that has been slow-cooked and shredded, and then rolled in a crepe and sliced into coiled pieces that resemble snails. Each piece is cooked with butter over a flame and served with gravy.

Language

The official language of Alsace is French, but many older residents speak German dialects, and almost everyone is bilingual or multilingual. Shop workers and everyone employed in tourism usually speak several European languages as well as English.

Movies

If you watch closely, you will catch Strasbourg’s Place de la Cathédral in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows starring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. A bomb explodes in front of the majestic cathedral, which is the ideal backdrop for evil because of its gothic architecture. Strasbourg is also the setting for Julia starring Vanessa Redgrave and Meryl Streep. The 1977 Oscar-winning film revisits the Nazi period, making Strasbourg’s location near Germany a logical background.

Websites and Maps

For additional information and vacation ideas, click the web links below:

Visit Alsace

Google Map of Alsace

Videos

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