Adventures in Alsace (1)

Manfredas: Do you want to go to Alsace for a few days? 

Me: What would we do there? 

Manfredas: Look at pretty places, eat good food and drink lots of wine. 

Me: In. 

Manfredas picked me up at my door in a dinky Car2Go and off we went.

Like driving a bumper car on a motorway.
Like driving a bumper car on a motorway.

We made it to Tegel airport in around 25 minutes, which meant that we had loads of time before our flight. The plan was to go through, sit down with a cuppa and a pastry and wait at the gate, which was clearly displayed on the board. Ah, the best-laid plans…

Manfredas had checked us in the day before and had the boarding passes on his phone. HAD. That morning, they were nowhere to be found. Having tried and failed repeatedly, we approached the attendant zealously guarding the Priority Boarding lane. She couldn’t help us and she wouldn’t let us through to ask the guy at that desk. NEIN, we’d have to queue up behind the 200 plebs with check-in luggage.

We joined the end of the queue, and I told Manfredas to call Air Berlin to see if they could help. The woman who answered the phone – eventually – didn’t know anything, couldn’t or wouldn’t help, and didn’t even ask for the details of the flight or our names.

Me: OK, plan B. I’ll stay in the queue with the bags, you wait until Zealhilde over there turns her back and then duck under the barrier to the Priority area. 

Normally, Germans aren’t rule-breakers but with 15 minutes to go until our gate closed, we really had no choice. Manfredas succeeded in his mission and I inched our bags towards the distant check-in desks. A few minutes later, he signalled me to leave the queue.

Me: What happened?

Manfredas: The flight’s been cancelled. 

And that was that. No announcement, no notification. Good job, Air Berlin. We joined another queue – this time with other confused and angry passengers. You know the ones – cancelled flights, overweight luggage charges, forgot to print out their boarding passes… We all bonded over our mutual hatred of Air Berlin and had a jolly old time. The woman behind the Desk for Hopeless Causes and Rip-off Merchantry managed to book us on a flight to Stuttgart an hour later.

Stuttgart - home of the Ladies' Standing Toilet.
Stuttgart – home of the Ladies’ Standing Toilet.

We picked up our rental car and were off. By now, we were obviously way behind schedule. Stuttgart is further from Alsace than our original choice of Karlsruhe-Baden Baden and we had lost an hour at the airport. Still, we were in high spirits when we finally pulled into our lunch destination – Strasbourg.

Pretty, pretty...
Pretty, pretty…

At this point, I was so hungry I could have eaten Manfredas, but we were in France, home of fine food, so I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that. I hadn’t banked on France’s bizarre opening hours and random rules. Yes, it seems that France likes to shut down its kitchens, right around the time normal people are ready for lunch. We tried three or four places but none were serving food at that time. They looked at us like we were a bit mad for even thinking 2pm could be a reasonable eating time.

DSC00682

Eventually, we found somewhere in the main square and I inhaled a slice of quiche and a glass of wine. We strolled around the city for an hour or so, taking in the sights and enjoying the laidback French chatter all around us. Our secondary aim was to find a breathalyzer; it’s compulsory to have one in the car when driving in France. Unfortunately, nowhere sold them, nobody knew where you could buy them and half the shops were closed anyway. Le sigh.

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We found the car and hit the autoroute again.
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Traffic was much worse than we had anticipated so we were both a bit frazzled by the time we finally arrived in Ribeauvillé. Three laps of the crazy one-way systems trying to find our apartment didn’t help much either. Still, find it we did. Manfredas called the owner. No answer. He called the other number. No answer. He left messages at both numbers in pretty decent French. After a few minutes, she texted back.

Bonjour! La clé est derrière le volet et votre chambre est la première à droite. 

Me: What’s a “volet”?

Neither of us had a notion so we stalked the outside of the building clawing at anything that might reveal a space behind it. Turns out “volet” means “shutter” but we were both giggling uncontrollably by the time we figured that out.

Les volets
Les volets

We let ourselves into our little apartment. I badly needed to use the loo so I went in, closed the door and had a wonderful Sitzpinkel. Then I tried to get out again. NON. The door was on a little metal roller and that had twisted so that I couldn’t move the door. I bashed at it, kicked it, wrenched it – it wouldn’t budge. Manfredas, having come back in from trying to get a phone signal on the street, was greeted by a barrage of swearing and this sight:

Note: This is a reenactment. He didn't leave me trapped there while he took photos.
Note: This is a reenactment. He didn’t leave me trapped in there while he took photos.

He managed to free me and amid a fit of hysterics, we left to explore Ribeauvillé a little. To say that this place is pretty would be the understatement of the century; it’s nothing short of adorable. Narrow, winding streets, gloriously colourful houses, flowers in every windowsill, hearts on the wooden volets… it’s chocolate box charm all the way.

We found a restaurant – not hard to do – and sat down to dinner. I was just tucking in when a bird shat on my arm. Encore le sigh. Still, we figured that was probably all of our bad luck out of the way and proceeded to make the most of the night.

Wining, not whining
Wining, not whining

 

Stay tuned for part two! À bientôt! 

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86 thoughts on “Adventures in Alsace (1)”

    1. I don’t think they’re in the UK yet – couple of European cities and a couple of American ones I think. Hopefully they’ll grow as it really is a great idea!
      And the prettiness did 🙂 It’s just gorgeous there!

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    1. Oh, it was so amazing! But I realised that I’m no food photographer 😉 Car2Go – what a great idea! Probably would have been around €40 in a taxi – ended up being less than a fiver with C2G!

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  1. Oh, it could have been so much worse! The bird could have shat on your HEAD … or were you wearing your big, floppy hat?? Actually I thought of your hat the other day when I got caught in a downpour. I was wearing a hat but with a much narrower brim, and I did have an umbrella but a gust of wind blew it inside out and broke the spines. Your hat would have given me better protection as I sprinted the remaining yards to my office 😉
    And I do love these travels of yours … so much fun and so much what I would expect to happen to me (flights cancelled, door jam, bird poop) but I don’t have the sense of humor that would carry me through so well … although I think I would handle bird poop better than a cancelled flight …

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    1. That was just the icing on the shitcake! The cancelled flight was a near disaster. And we were so mad about the time that we had wasted queuing when all it would have taken was one announcement. GRRR. I’d shit on them if I could 😉 And funny you should mention it, but I was wearing the hat earlier in the day! Seemed a bit silly to wear it out for the night though 🙂 I saw a woman in Alsace with one of those umbrella-hat things – maybe you should invest in one of those?
      https://www.amazon.com/Star-Power-Multicolored-Umbrella-One-Size/dp/B0006GK724

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      1. Oh, indeed, it’s hard to believe that Air Berlin couldn’t have made an announcement. So very rude of them. And that umbrella hat … hmmm … with some of our summer storms, the winds can be quite intense … with my luck, that hat would still be blown inside out and I would have been blown over to boot 😉 That day I was lucky in that I was wearing a quick-drying shirt and my water sandals and hardly anyone was at work being it was the Friday before a long weekend. And, frankly, my inner child rather enjoyed the experience of running through the downpour. As an adult, I can only get away with that if it happens by “accident.”

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  2. Oh wow! I will be in Strasbourg next weekend – tho just passing through and staying in Colmar. I am thinking of doing some hiking in the Ribeauvillé area, namely around Riquewihr. I am so excited about all the wine and maybe even horses!

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    1. We visited Colmar as well – it’s nice but definitely not as cute as the smaller towns! And yes, get out there and go see that countryside as much as you can! You will LOVE it there!

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      1. AWWW. I’m without car, and I wanted to make sure I am not stuck, in close reach of the train, etc. So this seemed like a pragmatic compromise. Altho I dont know how hiking-ready the weather will be, with 30C projected…

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          1. I know you’re taking a piss but I totally would! I just bought my train tickets btw – Brussels-Strasbourg-Brussels is somehow costing me about 80 Euro more than Moscow-Brussels-Moscow airfare!!!

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            1. I’m not taking the piss – I did it! Yeah, train tickets can be brutal and it’s awkward enough to get to – seemingly Strasbourg has an airport but nobody flies there!

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              1. YES! WTF? I am going back to Brussels to fly back to Moscow, it would have been SO much easier to just fly. And you know what? I looked at the itinerary, and the train makes a MASSIVE loop via Paris! Makes no sense…I’m just gonna get a bottle of wine and blog (ha!)

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          1. Wow, you do your research and planning! How German of you! I wrote to my Air B&B host on local recommendations (all hotels that arent super-$$$ are sold out! I forgot to book one till last minute >.<) but am yet to hear back…I bet this area totally has horseback riding.

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  3. I thought they changed the breathalizer law so only actual French people need one and tourists are exempt?

    I love Alsace… and I live right next to it. Next time you’re coming here let me know!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm, I’m not sure! Manfredas did the research as he was the one driving but it seems to be still valid for everyone according to a couple of websites I looked at… No fine for not having one though! And yes, I definitely will! I’d go back there in the morning – gorgeous! 🙂

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  4. Names like Straßburg, Hagenau or Kintzheim doesn’t sound French, isn’t it?
    And Riquewihr was founded in the 8th century as Reichenweier … :neutral

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  5. Canceling a flight? That sounds very un-German to me. 🙂
    Sadly, I’m all too familiar with the Desk for Hopeless Causes and Rip-off Merchantry at JFK. They must be affiliated.

    I’m sure the wine was amazing. How about the cheese?

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    1. Also very good! Munster cheese is the trademark cheese of the area – see if you can get your hands on some! Yeah, Air Berlin are kind of notorious for crap service – it was my first time flying with them, and probably my last after this experience!

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  6. Such a cool trip Linda – even though the ratbastards cancelled your flight without notice.I was surprised that you could rent an apt for such a short time period. Around here a week would be the shortest rental period on anything other than a hotel or motel. I love and subscribe to the theory that we run out of bad luck just as we run out of good luck. ha! Have you ever seen the World According to Garp? Bwahahaha! He had to buy the house after the plane ran into it because after all:”Do you know what the chances are of that ever happening again?”

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    1. Ha ha! Yes, I love that book. John Irving is one of my favourite authors! We rented it on Air BnB – you can rent for as much or as little time as you need, depending on availability! It’s a great idea!

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        1. It really is great for giving you a little taste of what it’s like to be a local. And if you want, you can save a bit of cash on eating out as you have your own kitchen. I really recommend it! You’ll see our little terrace in the next post – you wouldn’t get that at a hotel 🙂

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    1. You sort of squat over it – I had a bit of practice in the Baltics. Hideous inventions! I’d only use them under the direst of circumstances – thankfully, the rest of the toilets were sit-down ones!

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  7. Ha,sorry your journey was so troublesome but Ribeauville and surrounding villages are awesome, Hope you managed to visit Trimbach winery, one of the best in the whole Alsace. We stayed in neighbouring Bergheim last year and loved it. Such exquisite wine and everyone also speaks German – whats not to love!!!

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    1. Ha, I know! It was so confusing for me linguistically though – I did French at uni but have a head full of German now – the wrong language kept coming out, no matter which one I was searching for! I didn’t make it to that winery but maybe next time – thanks for the tip! Glad you had a great time too – I think it’s impossible not to in Alsace!

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  8. Mmm, I can’t wait to see the food and drink pix. And you promised cake! I don’t get the lunchtime weirdness. Imagine not being able to get a glass of wine in France because it’s the wrong hour! Terrible…wine, wine everywhere and not a drop to drink.

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  9. Bummer about the slightly rough start and lunchtimes in Strasbourg! But it sounds like you made up for it with wine later in Ribeauville! Which also looks ridiculously adorable. Can’t go wrong in that area, I don’t think.

    ps~how in the world did you hear about the breathalyzer thing? We drove to Stras. and that thought did not even cross our minds…

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    1. Ha, the German was looking up if taking a hire car across the border would be an issue and it was in one of the articles he read! I’d never heard of it but useful to know for future travels! Although good luck finding one – we even asked in Tourist Information and they had no clue haha! And yes, it is an extremely beautiful region! I want to go back!

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    1. Oh, you’ve been there! I guess I should have known haha! We passed through Riquewihr and spent an afternoon in Kaysersberg – loved everything about that region! So many pretty places!

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        1. Oh the wine! I want to go back now! We found one Alsatian wine in a supermarket here but there’s a big wine shop around 10 minutes away so I’ll be checking there too! The Pinot Blanc was also amazing 🙂

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      1. If you like wine, romantic tiny towns and romantic landscape, you will find a lot in the German speaking Europe:
        # The Rhine between Mainz and Bonn (you are not alone, lotsa tourists)
        # The Main between Aschaffenburg and Würzburg
        # In Baden the Kaiserstuhl and the south Black Forrest
        # The Wachau along the Danube in Austria
        # The Törggelen in South Tyrol (don’t worry, you don’t have to climb onto the mountains)
        # …

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          1. L’Alsace est très chique! (Non seulement) la bourgeoise bohème allemande aime beaucoup les paysages étrangers 😉
            The lovely Main- valley (part of the famous south German Romantic Road) has wonderful vineyards, romantic towns (Miltenberg, Wertheim, Gemünden, Kitzingen, …) . And Würzburg is only 4:45h from Berlin BY CAR!
            L’Alto Adige? L’alta società preferiti la Toscana! :green:

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