Alsace is the most easterly region in France encapsulated between the
Vosges Mountains and the River Rhine, which is France's border to Germany
and Switzerland. Its capital, Strasbourg, is one of the locations for the
European Parliament. Strasbourg has a population of 300,000, which is about a sixth
of the entire region. The population balance is distributed largely in small
rural communities, some relatively isolated in the mountains. Most people
seem to speak French and German and in the more remote areas the local
language "Alsatian" is also spoken. The region has an interesting history.
The word Alsace is Germanic as it was historically part of the Holy Roman
Empire until annexed by France in the 17th century. Germany took Alsace back
in 1871 following the Franco-Prussian war but it again came under French
control following the First World War. Germany temporarily occupied it again
during the Second World War. Each change of control involved migration and
settlement which has created a people not wholly French or German. Alsace is
also an enclave of Protestantism in an otherwise Catholic France. From a
visitors perspective is a country of contrasts. The Vosges mountains and their
foothills with the ribbon of picturesque villages and small towns is largely
rural, dependent upon farming (cheese and butter), tourism and skiing in the
winter. The Rhine flood plain is naturally flat with slightly larger towns,
some industry, lots of vineyards but still obviously benefitting from
The June event was an idea of bringing together the Twinning Associations
Mont Saint Aignan (MSA) with that group as the hub. In practise the only
representatives to attend were French, German and English. The cost may have
deterred the Poles and Rumanians. The English went as foot passengers to MSA and
then to and from
Alsace in the French coach. The Germans drove to Soultzeren and joined
the French coach for outings. The stay was at "Les Fougères",
Soultzeren; an Associations de Tourisme en France (VTF) holiday village. The
deal was for full board, including guided tours.
On our Way to Soultzeren
start for the English attendees was to reach MSA to join the French coach.
We opted for a journey as foot passengers. In practise this meant other EDTA
members driving us to Newhaven; then Transmanche Ferry to Dieppe where we
were collected by MSA 'twinners'. Hosted by the French on the Saturday
night, we departed by coach on Sunday from various pick-up points in MSA and
were on our way by 09.10. After a number of stops for comfort breaks, coffee
and lunch, we finally arrived at the chalet village at about 19:30 just in
time for our evening meal. There was some admission admin and key allocation
and we were done for the day.
of "On our Way"
Associations de Tourisme en France (VTF) was formed in
1956 as a means to give French families the opportunity to enjoy all
inclusive holidays at a reasonable price.
"Les Fougères", where we stayed, has 13 self
catering apartments plus 26 rooms in chalets with bar with terrace,
lounge, dining room, entertainment room, games room, fitness centre with
steam room and jacuzzi in a central building.
"Les Fougères" is up the hill from Soultzeren, at
an altitude of 750m, in the Vosges Mountains. Although not compulsory all
the excursion tickets were inclusive and a guide was provided.
Monday 8th - Cheese Farm , Munster and Château du Haut-Knigsbourg
was not the brightest of days. After a hearty breakfast the first excursion
of the week was to Ferme Roess Daniel (Vente de Produits Fermiers), a local cheese
farm. After a couple of hours we drove on to Munster, one of the
larger towns in the area. We returned to "Les Fougères" for a splendid
lunch then set off in the afternoon for Château du Haut-Knigsbourg.
At this time I need to point out that at Lunch and Dinner there was
unlimited quantities of libre wine so some of my recollections are not as
sharp as they might be. The evening event was a group discussion of the EU
election results; great fun.
of Monday Tours
Tuesday 9th - Strasbourg
at 06:30 due to a very early start to Strasbourg. Our guided tour of the
EU Parliament Building was booked for 09:30hrs but as with all cities
traffic made us slightly late, however all found it an interesting and
topical tour. Time for a tour of Strasbourg including
the Cathedral and its splendid astronomical clock. . Lunch was at a
restaurant that provided one of the local speciality dishes. The afternoon
was mostly taken up with more walking and a waterbus tour of the waterways
that divide Strasbourg. Back at Soultzeren we again enjoyed a very
pleasant meal (more wine) followed by a quiz on the EU legislature. The
UK team did not win any prizes.
of Strasbourg Tours
Wednesday 10th - Riquewihr and Colmar
so far today so time for a leisurely breakfast and then into the coach for a trip to Riquewihr;
the 5th most visited village in France, and justifiably so. Visited brewery
then meandered (yes that's the word) around the village. Back to Soultzeren
for a spot of lunch before heading off to Colmar in the afternoon. Following the
evening meal we assembled in the resort Salle and heard Charles play a
number guitar pieces which was followed by a disco. My John Travolta
routines were much admired!
of Wednesday Tours
Thursday11th - Walking Day
was effectively a free day which many intended to use for walking the
mountains. Armed with her trusty map Marie-Line led us down to Soultzeren
using the scenic route then back up for lunch. The intention of the
afternoon walk was to find the Green Lake (Barrage Du Lac Vert) at the top
of the mountains. This long walk was made longer by losing our way more than
once but we made it and successfully retraced our
tracks to "Les Fougères", where we found the rest of the party snacking
on the bretzels (Alsatian pretzels) they had made while we had been taking
our strenuous walk. Picture Gallery
of Thursday Walks
Friday12th - Turckheim, Katzenthal and Kaysersberg,
morning was dedicated to a tour of Turckheim, a particularly pretty village.
Lunch was a coach ride away at Katzenthal. The Caveau Bacchus was a
restaurant that provided traditional Alsace dishes which provided an
experience as well as an enormous meal. The afternoon tour was at Kayserberg,
made famous as the birth place of Albert Schweitzer. We returned to
Katzenthal to have a tour of a winery. This vineyard grew 8 different grapes
types which they blended into no less than 22 different wines. Not everyone
seemed to enjoy the tasting session as a lot of spitting was going on.
However I enjoyed them all. Back at Soultzeren our after dinner
entertainment was a traditional dance troupe with musicians who managed to
drag a good number of protesting onlookers to successfully accompany them on
the dance floor. The 'volunteers' acquitted themselves well!
Picture Gallery of Friday Tours
Homeward bound and Mont Saint Aignan Fireworks
sad goodbyes to new friends with promises to repeat these events in the years
to come. Into the coach and off back to Mont Saint Aignan. We stopped for a
picnic at one large service station plus other comfort breaks before
arriving back in MSA by early evening to be kindly accommodated overnight
again by our French hosts. On Sunday we had
time to visit old friends before being ferried back to Dieppe for our onward
journey home via Newhaven. With other 'twinners' waiting to take us home from
Newhaven we completed a very enjoyable, if intense, break with friends in
France. I will definitely be signing up for the next one, with Germany being
the possible next venue in 2011.
of Return and Fireworks