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Looking for a base (or two) in Alsace-Lorraine

Looking for a base (or two) in Alsace-Lorraine

Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 06:29 AM
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Looking for a base (or two) in Alsace-Lorraine

My husband and I are in the very beginning stages of planning for a visit to Alsace-Lorraine in the fall of 2018. We are hoping to either begin or end our trip with a few days in Paris - but we will have about three weeks to explore the Alsace-Lorraine region. We have only visited Paris while in France, so we are hoping this will be a wonderful opportunity to see a lot of new places and experience the French countryside.

We are US citizens in our mid 60s, very active. Well-traveled (UK, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Czech Rep, Austria, as well as Asia and South America) and quite comfortable making our own arrangements. Our hope is to find a cottage or apartment rental that we can use as a base - we will plan to have a rental car once we are not in a city (perhaps taking the train out of the city, then renting a car?), so we could make day trips to various villages, wineries, historic sites. (And, yes, we have driven in Europe and the UK many times, so that will not be an issue.)

We could rent two places, one after the other, to widen our range. I'm hoping to discover which villages/towns would be best for me to start looking at rental possibilities - I prefer to stay in one place for at least five or six days, and I like self-catered rentals over hotels.

WHAT WE LIKE:
*Staying in small older villages, but not so rural that we can't easily walk to the market or to a restaurant or two.
*We do enjoy walking - if there are walking trails near where we would be staying, we would certainly like that. A good walk for us is between five and eight miles in the course of a day - on gentle terrain. Not every day - but every second or third day would be great. We have parked and walked in other countries, making a loop - or returning to our car by bus or cab.
*Good food - But not touristy or super fancy. We are also fine with going to markets and preparing some of our own meals.
*Wine - and especially visiting vineyards. We do know the drinking and driving laws are strict in France, so we would like to visit and then bring our wines "home" to enjoy, unless we're in walking distance.
*Cheese - would love to visit fromageries and also to sample the local cheeses where they are made.
* History - and we are particularly interested in WW1, as next year will be the centennial of the Armistice. We also like to explore old abbeys, churches, manors/castles. Museums.

WHAT WE DON'T LIKE:
*Shopping - I have little patience for this activity, unless it is a flea market or unique smaller shop.
* Modern commercial or suburban towns.
*Crowds - I know this cannot always be avoided - we are hoping by going in late August into mid-September, we might have a chance of slightly smaller throngs of tourists.
*Tour groups - We prefer to figure it out on our own, but are not completely averse to an occasional walking tour given by local residents.

What towns/villages might fit our wishes? What areas to avoid, if possible? Any guide books you would recommend? I just ordered DK Eyewitness France (I already have DK Paris and DK French Cheese) We are open to any and all suggestions. Thank you in advance for all the knowledge and thoughtfulness I always find here. (And apologies for being unable to preview/edit this post)
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 06:58 AM
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Well, Munster for cheese.

Alsace is basically made up of Rhine plain to the east and the Vosges hillside to the West. I have spent time in the Lorraine bit and there the odd spa town that might interest, but of the two Alsace is really nice.

Strasbourg is the big city and really worth a day of your time at least. While the wine area officially spreads to a lot of Alsace the only stuff worth drinking is from the Vosges hillside. Once you get to the hillsides you will see miles of vines.

Since the Germans and French have fought over this area a lot there are loads of fortifications and even an concentration camp in the area from the Vosges ridge to the Rhine. A motorway runs north south through the area and a touristy type wine road along the bottom of the Vosges with a ridge road along the top.

Walking is big business in the area and in the Vosges above the grape-line is miles of walking. You can also walk on the little roads in the vines, the vine paths etc and certainly village to village is easy (if a little steep at times).

I'd look at somewhere in the south like Eguisheim (a bit touristy in the day but lovely in the evening. But we also found places like St Hipolyte (which is very small) but of course food is harder to come by in the smaller places if staying in an appartment. We stayed in a gite in Eguisheim last September (follow my name back to find details. The towns' websites cover gites pretty well.

I wouldn't stay in Colmar.

Yes I'd take a car.

Now where to stay.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 07:20 AM
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Yes do car and take train CDG Airport/Paris to Strasbourg - spend a night in that lovely city and rent a car and head to the Colmar area and poke along the Alsace Wine Road, which meanders by numerous wine villages - base in one and explore.

3 weeks seems a long time in that compact area - maybe drive south and also do Burgundy and its Burgundy Wine Road - or over to Germany and the Mosel/Rhine areas?

Anyway book TGV trains to and from Paris very early to get deep discounted rates over full fare - www.voyages-sncf.com is a site you can book your own tickets on- www.seat61.com has superb advice on that - for general info on trains also www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Gites are a great idea - go to local markets and cook your own meals:

https://translate.google.com/transla...ml&prev=search
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 07:26 AM
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I think my favorite town in Alsace is Obernai. Nice walking town, plenty of cafés and restaurants, close by many of the main historical sites in the region, central for going north or south on the Route des Vins.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 07:51 AM
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I don't think DK Eyewitness guides are for serious travelers, I'm surprised you are buying more if you've ever had one. I think they have very lightweight on content and appeal to people who think they have pretty pictures. Since you know the area you want pretty well, and it is small, I'd suggest Michelin green guides. I like almost any guidebook better than DK, though, for content.

You should avoid Colmar and Riquewihr if you don't like places that have a lot of tourists. Or maybe any town that has one of those little tourist trains which would also include Obernai and Ribeauville and Eguisheim, in addition to those two. But sometimes places are attractive to tourists for a reason.

This is actually a pretty good description of the villages in that area, I think, I'd probably forget about the tourism issue and go to villages that sound appealing.

http://www.planetware.com/france/als...n-f-a-rovi.htm
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 08:24 AM
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Actually, Christina - I agree with you as far as using the DK books while traveling. Besides not being the best for the actual route planning, they are HEAVY, and I never bring them along on my travels. But, that said, I do love them for their history, diagrams of sites and cities, and just for drooling over while I'm in planning stages.

Thanks for the link - I think we will of course want to go to places that are lovely and interesting enough that they attract tourists, and from my own experience I know that some places are very crowded with day trippers, and then if we are staying there, the evenings can be delightful.

All this info is really helpful - we just decided on this area as a destination after thinking long and hard, and now I am gathering info. We like to do one trip a year to a new place, and then a few others to places we especially loved.

Sometimes, it's hard to imagine it all until you've been to a region - we spent a few weeks in the Cotswolds in England for our first time this past July/Aug, and of course now I know enough that I might have planned differently, but then we all know that unexpected "adventures" can be the best part of a trip.

I like PalenQ's idea of expanding our area of travle, with the amount of time we have. And thank you so much for the invaluable links to train info.

Luckily, we have plenty of time to look at options and make arrangements. And for me, all the research and planning is almost as satisfying as the actual trip (Almost.)
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 08:26 AM
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You may also like the rough guides.

it is a tricky balance to choose between a place big enough for easy access to stuff and a small enough place to be away from people.

You also will have to choose between being in the old centre or in the modern houses around the old centre.

Have fun looking, you have time.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 09:30 AM
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Thanks so much Bilbo - Pretty much, we always choose the old centre for accommodations. Have had some interesting stays in very old houses/apartments in very old cities and villages, but wouldn't have it any other way.

And, yeah - I am already having fun looking.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 10:38 AM
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If into wines and wine visits the Mosel Valley is tops and it is so scenic too:

https://www.google.com/search?q=mose...w=1745&bih=885

Lots of really cute small villages and towns and in fall ubiquitous wine festivals.

Certainly one of Europe's primo motoring venues.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 02:53 PM
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PalenQ - Wow, now you have put me on the trail to adding the Mosel Valley to our itinerary! Here's what I'm thinking - very rough outline:

Fly to Paris, stay maybe four days,

then take a train to Strasbourg, stay a couple days,

rent a car and drive to Mosel Valley.

Find a village and rent a cottage or apartment - stay a week or so

Then head to Alsace and do the same.

Return car at CDG and fly home

We are thinking about three to three-and-a-half weeks for the trip (not including travel days from US to Paris and back), but luckily we are flexible and can add more days if necessary.

Does that seem do-able? Enough time?

(Okay - please don't tell me about anymore irresistible places - j/k)
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 03:15 PM
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Yes to me leisurely - yes a week in each venue seems to me certainly enough- and driving back to CDG Reims and cathedral and Champagne tours could be smack on the way or smaller Champagne towns like Epernay. WW1 site verdon could be too - still see the infamous trenches from trech warfare, etc.

https://www.google.com/search?q=verd...w=1745&bih=885

Yes seems a lesiurely paced tour.
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Old Oct 2nd, 2017, 07:01 PM
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Strongly recommend stopping in Nancy on the way back to Paris. No reason to drive - take the TGV from Strasbourg and then on to Paris.

It has one of the most magnificent squares in Europe and was the home of French Art Nouveau.
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Old Oct 3rd, 2017, 06:06 AM
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If you do Alsace first then Mosel and end then in Luxembourg then if going to CDG airport why not drive? It's over a remote part of France few tourists get to - old villages - farms - France off the beaten path - I led bike trips Luxembourg-Reims for years - we did two days Luxembourg to Reims so driving it's a few hours. Stay maybe in Reims day before your flight and drive to CDG.
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 07:41 AM
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Just wondering: Why wouldn't you stay in Colmar?
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 12:37 PM
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Time to start a new thread rather than reviving one from 2017. So many things have changed since back then.
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
Time to start a new thread rather than reviving one from 2017. So many things have changed since back then.
Especially for PalenQ. I think he is deceased.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 25th, 2022, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by sarabeth View Post
Just wondering: Why wouldn't you stay in Colmar?
Christina did explain. Op doesn't like crowds. Colmar full of crowds.
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