I have been trying to get back to writing my blog, however spending time with my grandson during the school holidays in September and trying to catch up on gardening, time has gone very quickly. I am also trying to start the huge job of spring-cleaning in my house, after working full time not so long ago, believe me there is a lot to catch up on.
I would love to share a very small part of my recent trip to Europe with you. I have so many photographs of areas we visited, beautiful places we stayed and special foods that we ate.
I am going to cover the small French village called Riquewihr which we visited towards the end of our trip, and it was really beautiful. Having hired a car at the beginning of our trip we were able to take advantage of seeing different areas. I must admit I did none of the driving for the whole 5,000+ kms we travelled, my husband did. He has driven a little in Europe previously and was quite happy to do this with the exception of certain cities. These are photos of the approach to the village of Riquewihr through the vineyards and small villages.
Here is a bit of information about the village along with some of the photos I have taken to give you a better idea of what it is like. The village of RIQUEWIHR is situated between the peaks of the Vosges Mountains and the Plain of Alsace. Riquewihr is a medieval town right in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards, classified among the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Alsace is in eastern France on the Rhine River border with Germany. It is a beautiful area that combines history, culture, scenery, and food and wine. Riquewihr is the “jewel in the crown” (nicknamed, The Gem of the Alsace Vineyards) and famous for the Riesling and other great Alsace wines produced in the area. Although Riquewihr is only about 7 miles (approx 11 ks) from Colmar (a spectacular area which I will cover another time) it has managed to retain its romantic medieval feel enclosed behind its tall protective city walls and surrounded by vineyards.
Its narrow cobblestone streets are lined with half-timbered houses dating back to the 15th – 18th centuries and are built very close together. The colours of these timber houses are typical of Alsace: red, green or bright yellow with adornments of colourful flowers and other items. You can see inner cobbled courtyards with sculptures and old wells and fountains. There are carved wooden beams and stone doorways, wrought iron signs outside the shops. Some people believe it looks a little like something you would find in a fairytale or Disneyland.
I have also included a few shots that we took at the nearby village of Ribeauville, also a very beautiful part of Alsace to visit.
On approaching the village you can get a great view of the Dolder, (a 13th century defensive gate), the medieval belfry watchtower and upper gate into the village.
Tourists can get around the village on the “little train” if they prefer not to walk.
In the village are numerous shops and I have to be honest, I think I pretty much visited majority of them. I love to see local craft, foods, cafes and bookshops. Much to my husband’s amazement I had seen a recipe book relevant to the Alsace region that I fell in love with, it was a set with a silicone mould. I decided to buy the set, even though the recipes are in French. I am yet to give them a go, but I guess I will be using Google Translate a lot. I will share my experiences with you when I give these a go.
Here are a snapshot of just some of the variety of shops you can find in the village.
The Alsace region is also known for the stork, in fact this is their emblem. Storks have been part of the Alsatian region for centuries, once becoming nearly extinct. Recently efforts have been made to help them return and establish their nests in the region. These can usually be seen on chimneystacks of buildings or on top of churches. Many shops sell items relevant to the stork, i.e. soft toys, books, clothing etc.
As mentioned in my post, Macaroon vs Macarons, we purchased some wonderful coconut macaroons from this village. These are a local tradition along with kugelhopf cakes and can be seen in many bakers windows. You can also buy ceramic moulds for the kugelhopf cakes in many different sizes. You can pickup a Non-Stick Kugelhopf Pan from most quality kitchen stores. I have shown a photograph of one of their brochures.
Coco-LM, Alsatian House of Biscuits, was created in 1996 to offer authentic Alsace biscuits to the area. They began with a small shop where they cooked and sold their coconut macaroons made from their own recipe. After two years they expanded and opened two more shops in the village. They make other varieties of biscuits and I have included a photo of their brochure to illustrate them. You can also check them out at www.maison-alsacienne-biscuiterie.com.
A shop very close to my heart was one with all things to do with Christmas (I love the decorations at this time of year). I began taking photo shots until I noticed a picture (I couldn’t understand the writing) of a camera with a big cross through it. I put my camera away feeling a little embarrassed. I suggest you check their website out, they have fabulous items and you can buy on line if you want. Check out their website, www.wohlfahrt.com. I have shown below a photograph of their brochure.
I have always wished to be in Europe just prior to Christmas to experience the decorations and experience the festive season. We have some city decorations but not the same as Europe. Being born in England, as a child I was accustomed to lots of Christmas decorations, cold weather and sometimes even snow around this time, and therefore Christmas holds fond memories that are special to me. Here in Australia we can sometimes have 30ºC on Christmas day, and even though this can be very nice it is not the same as what I had as a child. I always get teary when I hear Bing Crosby sing White Christmas.
Maybe next year I can plan a trip to Europe prior to Christmas. We spoke to a couple of English tourists whilst in France, and their recommendations were to go to either Berlin or Cologne at this time of year as they loved both of these places. Do you have any favourite places or suggestions to visit prior to Christmas? Leave me a comment I would love to hear about them.
Another shop we were very interested in was the local “coutellerie” cutlery maker. These talented knife makers design and manufacture in their own workshop, and are exclusive models guaranteed with quality workmanship. Each stage of production requires patience, attention to detail and expertise to fully express the “soul of the knife”. Guaranteed against any manufacturing defect, quality is the key rather than quantity.
The beautifully crafted knives come in a choice of finishes. Handles come in a variety of woods including: pistachio, olive, apple, oak, birch and boxwood. Also rare wood species like ebony, snakewood known for their elegance and hardness.
The Alsace region of France has a cultural heritage and to celebrate this they designed a unique range of knives. The spring on the stainless steel sleeve of the knife is decorated with a stork, the symbol of the region. This lucky bird is thought to have many virtues including loyalty, health, wealth and fertility. To see their range of knives and for further information check out their website, www.atelier-couteaux.com.
We liked the knives so much that we purchased two boxes as gifts for our family. They were the Elsass range with the handles finished in Olive Wood, you can see the stork emblem quite well. Just to add a little more weight to our already bulging bags, but they were too nice to leave, and a lovely memory of this region.
I hope you found this as interesting as we did, and that it has given you a little insight in to the village of Riquewihr. Leave a comment and let me know what you think?