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Christmas in Alsace


Abra
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If you could spend Christmas anywhere in France, where would you pick, and what would you eat there? It's getting to be time for us to make some plans, and I realize that I don't know enough about how the holiday is celebrated here.

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I spent one Christmas in Alsace: Strasbourg, Colmar, and surrounds. Lovely Christmas market in Strasbourg. Towns are pretty as a postcard.

Make reservations as far ahead as possible esp. for restaurants. Don't have any specific recommendations on that front.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I have spent at least 4 Christmases in Alsace - it's a magical, story-book land that comes alive at this time of year.

There are wonderful Christmas markets in every square in every town, and the decorations and the spirit in the air is infectious.

I don't remember if I specifically have photos of all the wonderful things in the Christmas markets in my pages, though there are probably a few, but I know that this page at least has a video of Christmas Eve Mass in the Cathedral in Strasbourg (outside of which is just one of the many Christmas markets in town):

http://www.guyarts.com/alsace/mark-in-alsace.html

And here's a page of links to all the restaurant meals we've had in Alsace at Christmastime over the years:

http://www.guyarts.com/france.html

If you have any questions after seeing these, don't hesitate to ask!

What would I eat? Street food by day, and restaurant meals at night - you'll see plenty of that.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Wow, Markk, I kind of feel like I don't even need to go, since it looks like you've already been everywhere and done it all for me! That's some amazingly detailed documentation.

It's funny, because Alsace has been right near the top of my list. It seems like a place where festivity is in the air, even for visitors. I'm sure that there are a lot of places in France where the fun is all behind closed doors, so I'm looking for a week to remember in a place that's overflowing with celebration.

Where do you like to stay there, and not to be a smart ass or anything, but what else is there to do besides eat?

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Wow, Markk, I kind of feel like I don't even need to go, since it looks like you've already been everywhere and done it all for me!  That's some amazingly detailed documentation.

It's funny, because Alsace has been right near the top of my list.  It seems like a place where festivity is in the air, even for visitors.  I'm sure that there are a lot of places in France where the fun is all behind closed doors, so I'm looking for a week to remember in a place that's overflowing with celebration.

Where do you like to stay there, and not to be a smart ass or anything, but what else is there to do besides eat?

I've been there many (many) times and have stayed either at the Holiday Inn, or the Hilton, both across the street from each other at Place Bordeaux, which is now a very convenient tram stop.

As far as you being a smart ass or anything, I don't mean to be one either, but what do you mean by "what else is there to do besides eat?" There's strolling - every street is filled with food specialty shops, cheese shops, bakeries, markets, bookstores, wine stores, food shops, food stalls, bakeries, cheese shops, and there are stupendous Hypermarkets with great food sections.

If you referring to some part of travel that doesn't have to do with food, I wouldn't know about it - not here, or any other place I've traveled to.

When I travel, I like to stroll the streets aimlessly, and take in what's there (okay, in Strasbourg, there's a lot of food retail) and see what I discover where my feet take me.

If you meant things like museums, churches, etc., I'm pretty sure they have them, but I can't help you there, sorry.

I guess what there is to do is stroll and take in a way of life that doesn't seem to exist much any more.

There are really cute towns and villages all throughout the Alsace region, and at Christmastime they all come alive with wonderful Christmas markets of their own. Most of them are based on wine as their "industry", so you can do an astounding amount of wine-tasting, mostly visiting "wineries" that are the size of an average suburban house somewhere in the US. And you can sample (and buy) the most astounding wines, for mere pennies.

Festivity is in the air for visitors. Life in Alsace is good for the people there, and it's reflected in their effervescent personalities and their extremely warm and helpful attitude towards visitors.

Well, I don't know that I've answered your question, but if I haven't, please let me know.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Where do you like to stay there,

I thought of some more answers to your questions...

We stay as I said in the Hilton or Holiday Inn in Strasbourg, because I like "American" style hotels, and both are pretty luxurious. I also love Strasbourg, because on those days that you don't feel like exploring the region, the story-book town has plenty to captivate you for many, many days of strolling.

But I tend to take the majority of my dinners at Le Faude, a micro-village partway up the Vosges Mountains, near Colmar, which is actually 56 miles (and one solid hour of driving) from Strasbourg. People think I'm nuts to drive that far for dinner (I am, but that's the same time it takes me to go the 1.5 miles from where I live in NJ to midtown Manhattan for dinner during rush hour) so it's nothing to me.

But if you were looking for a place to stay in the Southern (Colmar) end of Alsace, I would recommend staying at Le Faude, which was beautiful to start, before they underwent major upgrades and renovations last year (I had seen the plans). (By the way, as far as the restaurant, it was this one.

And there's one other thing I should tell you about Christmas in Alsace, which you'll already be familiar with if you've spent Christmas in Europe.

Restaurants close for Christmas and Christmas Eve, more of them closing on the Eve. You'd need to get from the Strasbourg Tourist Office the official list of "Restaurants Open for Christmas" and be sure in advance that you have a dinner reservation for those nights.

Of course, I've spent Christmas Eve in Germany, where we had to stock up on Whoppers from Burger King before they closed at noon, and then heat them up at dinnertime with hair-dryers in our (luxury) hotel.

So this is only a problem if you don't deal with it in advance.

If you plan to explore the region, you will have to have a car. Strasbourg is an enchanted city, so staying there without a car isn't a problem, but the great restaurants are in the surrounding countryside, where you get to experience the bounty and gluttony that the locals enjoy on a daily basis - that's what all the photos of my meals were. None of those places can be gotten to without a car.

Hope this helps.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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We had a lovely meal in Colmar on Christmas or Christmas Eve, details are becoming a bit fuzzy after so long.

It was Le restaurant « A l’Echevin » . It's worth checking out as options may be slim at that time.

In Strasbourg, we stayed at Hotel Suisse. I thought it was charming and friendly. A little rustic but quite comfortable; definitely not Holiday Inn.

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I'm sure there's non-food stuff to do, somewhere, but like you we do tend to focus on food when travelling. However, one does need the occasional break!

The Hotel Suisse looks like more our style (and price) than an American hotel. We do like good bathrooms and comfortable beds, but other than that rusticity and local charm are high on our list. No hotel-room Whoppers, please. Or were you kidding about hair-dried burgers???

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Christmas in Provence is nice too. Though not so spectacular as in Alsace, it is very poetic. Big santons and crèches in the churches, Christmas markets, special Christmas cooking and food specialties in the shops, the Thirteen Desserts, the pressing of the first olive oil... Not so obvious and touristy as Alsace but, IMO, much more charming in a humble sort of way.

Edited by Ptipois (log)
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Since Alsace seems to be featuring here, I will throw in my own reliable hotel choice for Strasbourg - take a look at the Hotel Du Chateau d'Andlau which is in Barr, about 20 minutes from the centre of Strasbourg.

The times when the European Parliament sits in Strasbourg can be difficult for accomodation and way back in the early 90s I ended up in Barr because it was the nearest place with rooms. Its been my first choice for Strasbourg hotels since then and, unlike most of the places I stay in for work-related trips, its also a good week-end destination. The rates are reasonable and the rooms are warm and comfortable.

This year, the Parliament is in Strasbourg from 10 to 13 December so reservations (hotel and restaurant) are essential on those dates.

Alsace, and Strasbourg in particular, have the best Christmas markets outside Germany and the unique Franco/Alemannic mixture comes into its own in the coming weeks.

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Thanks, kerriar, that looks like a really pretty place to stay.

I'm still looking, especially for a place that will be "open" and happening on Chistmas Day itself, so any additional ideas are very welcome.

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I'm sure there's non-food stuff to do, somewhere, but like you we do tend to focus on food when travelling.  However, one does need the occasional break! 

The Hotel Suisse looks like more our style (and price) than an American hotel.  We do like good bathrooms and comfortable beds, but other than that rusticity and local charm are high on our list.  No hotel-room Whoppers, please.  Or were you kidding about hair-dried burgers???

The hair-dryered whoppers were in Berlin, and yes, that was for real. In Germany, the country closes down for December 24, and we were lucky to have found a Burger King even open till noon.

In Alsace, everything stays open Dec. 24 for last minute shopping, and being at one of the great hypermarkets to see everybody stocking up at the very last minute is quite a site. But most people spend that evening with family, and so the number of restaurants open is limited indeed, but the Strasbourg Tourist Office will now be offering this year,s list of what,s open.

A lot of the rustic hotels outside of Strasbourg offer dinner that night for guests of the inn only.

And then on Christmas day you,ll find more things open. Again, the tourist board has this well covered and can fax you the list early enough to make your plans.

And while I do prefer American style hotels for many reasons (not the least of which are staying for free at the Hilton with Hilton Points for weeks at a time), it is true that the small family hotels in the surrounding towns offer a totally different, and wonderful experience.

If your plans include the Colmar area, do definitely stay at Le Faude (and let me know so I can hook you up). This is the "Welche" region of Alsace, where, as opposed to the regular Alsace people who are warm, outgoing, and loving, these people are effervescently extra-warm, extra-outgoing, and extra-loving.

I would advise to make your trip a combination of Strasbourg, and some of of the smaller hamlets - the hotel and restaurant Le Chasseur, in Birkenwald, is only about 20 minutes from Strasbourg, on a fascinating drive through roads that get smaller and quieter, and it's so deadly quiet when you get there that you can hear the snow falling (and eat spectacular food as well, and drink from an especially great cellar).

Well, I don't know how much I answered, but feel free to keep asking more. I don't think you can go wrong anywhere there.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I will put in a plug for my favorite part of Alsace. It is to the north of Strasbourg, always stay in Lembach either in the guest rooms at the 1 star Auberge du Cheval Blanc or the Hotel au Heimbach http://www.hotel-au-heimbach.fr. This is about 35 miles north of Strasbourg and is a perfect little village. As for dining, in the immediate area there is the 3 star l'Arnsbourg http://www.arnsbourg.com (also has a hotel now), and the 2 star le Cygne in Gundershoffen http://www.aucygne.fr in addition to Cheval Blanc which is really outstanding.

For non food things, the Maginot line runs right through here and is interesting to see.

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  • 4 weeks later...
I spent one Christmas in Alsace:  Strasbourg, Colmar, and surrounds.  Lovely Christmas market in Strasbourg.  Towns are pretty as a postcard.

Make reservations as far ahead as possible esp. for restaurants.  Don't have any specific recommendations on that front.

Sorry I'm a week late and thus it's pay-per-view, but Jean-Claude Ribaut of Le Monde had an article last week on Christmas eating in Alsace.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

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  • 1 year later...

Well, it's two years later and we actually are going to Alsace for this Christmas (we ended up in Barcelona the year I started this thread). We've rented an apartment in Strasbourg for a week, so I'll be able to cook, but of course we'll be eating out as well. I want to spend a day in Colmar, so Markk, if you see this, I'd love to get connected to Le Faudé!

Does anyone have any more recent suggestions or additions to what's already been mentioned above? I do have the list of what's open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, by the way.

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I think it's technically in Lorraine, but I can second the recommendation for l'Arnsbourg. Dinner was probably the best meal I've had in France, and the breakfast at their Hotel K was without a doubt the best I've had anywhere. The setting is gorgeous after a snowfall. In Strasbourg itself, I recall fondly the choucroute garnie at Chez Yvonne, though it is a touch touristy.

True rye and true bourbon wake delight like any great wine...dignify man as possessing a palate that responds to them and ennoble his soul as shimmering with the response.

DeVoto, The Hour

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, this discussion is making me quite jealous. It's been some years since I've been to Alsace but I still have fond memories of the lovely towns and excellent food. I stayed with friends on my visits so we only ate out occasionally. Highlights for me were the flamenkuchen and kugelhopf, both simple but simply delicious when well done. I'll look forward to readng your report.


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I posted some reviews of various Alsace restaurants on eGForums Restaurants in Alsace and Lorraine

Some changes: Mike Germershausen is no longer at the Blanche Neige. He has opened his own restaurant http://www.auberge-ferme-hueb.com/fr/index.php in Marckolsheim (near to Illhaeusen) with simpler, lower priced menus. You will need to request the 25 and 45€ set menus if you want them when booking for lunchtime eating. The standard lunchtime menu-of-the-day is 15€.

The Auberge Frankenbourg has opened a new dining room.

Emil Jung has retired from Au Crocodile in Strasbourg and it is now run by Philippe Bohrer.

Edited by milkman (log)
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