30 Jun 2014

Europe 2014: Day 10 - Ammerschwihr

I’m too old to party into the wee hours and slept until 11am. I’d promised Laure I’d look at her mother’s computer and then we all had lunch together.

I managed to remove the panniers without too much difficulty (despite the release mechanism being bent on the left side) so we could explore some of the narrow Alsatian roads in the hills around Ammerschwihr.

We went to Kaysersberg first to find a bar of soap Zev wanted entitled ‘the birth of a cat’—a very strange piece indeed with the shapes of a kitten and a womb incorporated into the bar. The soap maker hadn’t made this design for a while so we left empty-handed.

More colour, more flowers, more greenery—I never get bored of the scenery.

The Kaysersberg city hall with a madwoman in pink playing accordion while wearing sunglasses.

Another garden set into the roadway.
We carried on to Riquewihr and went up into the mountains. The roads are only single track so it is important to be very careful on the many blind corners as it’s very tight even for a motorbike to pass an oncoming car.

Out of the vineyards, the scenery changed to lush forests of evergreen trees. It was tempting to explore some of the dirt trails coming off the main road but I decided to leave these for another visit—although my confidence is back for the most part, I still find myself feeling nervous on questionable surfaces.

A quick break among the trees.

Zev kicks into action looking for more plant samples.

The single lane road winding through the Alsatian woods.

A snail about 4cm in diameter—it looked like a slug with a shell!

One of several water pumping stations—rather than ugly industrial pumps ruining the forests, the councils have successfully integrated them into the scenery.

Hello everyone, it’s Zev. I’m feeling somewhat nervous precariously sitting next to a steep embankment.

The bike’s ‘good side’ until repairs are carried out.

Yup. I had to get in on the valley background photo action.

A panorama of the valley.

We returned to Ammerschwihr for a mandatory wine tasting at Laure’s family winery which celebrated its 400th year in operation this year. Laure is the 15th generation of her family to run the winery.

This is Pinot, a Maine Coon mix which means despite his pissed off expression he is actually a very social and affectionate creature.

An old wine press in the tasting room.

I’ll take the whole bottle please.

Behaving myself this time—and I should mention my appreciation of Laure’s generosity to allow us to stay in her winery for three nights to recuperate.

Pinot is not amused.

Just a small part of the winery.

Looking up the road with the winery in the distance.

Of course my favourite wine of all was a delicious 2007 special selection Gewürztraminer made with handpicked, late season grapes. It is only made every five years or so in small batches, and sold in 500ml bottles (instead of the usual 750ml). It is meant to be a dessert wine, or one to enjoy with very rich food. A bottle like this would go for £70+ in London easily, but direct from the winery it was a shockingly reasonable €28.

Afterwards we went to a local restaurant Aux Armes de France for dinner—far, far more posh a restaurant than I would normally go to, but once in a while you have to treat yourself. After a 5 course meal I only had to roll 100 metres back to the winery.

On the way home I saw this sign—I can’t say I’ve ever had fine Alsatian colon wine before...

The flats at the winery.
It’s hard to believe in the morning we’ll be hopping on the bike and aiming the GPS to London, but our stop in the Alsace has been just what the doctor ordered to put the trip back on track. Next time I’ll bring a tent and squat in one of the vineyards...

Europe 2014 quick links

Day 1: London to Sint-Gillis-Waas
Day 2: Sint-Gillis-Waas to Bad Driburg
Day 3: Bad Driburg to Berlin
Day 4: Berlin
Day 5: Berlin to Prague
Day 6: Prague
Day 7: Prague to Wemding
Day 8: Wemding to Ammerschwihr
Day 9: Ammerschwihr
Day 10: Ammerschwihr
Day 11: Ammerschwihr to Eschdorf
Day 12: Eschdorf to London


29 Jun 2014

Europe 2014: Day 9 - Ammerschwihr

Saturday was Laure’s day off so we all had a lie-in until about 10:30am before meeting up in Laure’s flat for breakfast. Afterwards we went with Laure in the car to Colmar, the main town in the area 7km away. We had a lot of difficulty finding parking as the old part of the town is very popular with tourists from Germany and Switzerland (both less than an hour away).

Laure played tour guide for a while before going off to do some shopping and leaving us to our own devices. Unfortunately I forgot to bring my camera so all photos are iPhone snaps.

Colmar (the old part) definitely fits the criteria for charming Alsatian towns.

Canals and buildings integrate to make a very calming atmosphere despite the droves of tourists.

Every road is full of colour.

Maison des têtes—now a hotel, there are several thousand unique heads sculpted throughout the building.

Any kind of nougat you desire.

After Laure went off, we had coffee and a snack at a café before visiting the Colmar museum.

Artwork on the side of an ark—their faces are somewhat disturbing.

A king.

One of Captain Janeway’s ancestors?

Le char de la mort (aka the chariot of death)—a rather gory 18th century work.

Stained glass—if I was a woman with such pert breasts I think I would have just as smug an expression on my face as she does. 

Jesus meets Conchita Wurst

Dinner is served.

No bears will attack with this aggressive goose at the helm...

The architecture of the museum seemed to fuse roman and gothic styles.

I wouldn’t mess with this pup...

Erm... I’m sort of at a loss for words... although he does illustrate the term ‘barefaced cheek’.

He’s looking a bit disgruntled with his donkey.

Three boaters wafting along.

Almost too much colour to process.

A resident about to park in his garage.

Leaving the old town.

The covered market.

A rare treat in London—flat peaches which taste much fruitier than the usual round ones.

An almost endless variety of cheeses from the region and beyond.

Zev here. I’m overwhelmed by the selection of cheese. Stop looking at my English tan.

More cheeses—some of these are aged in caves.

Local salami varieties.

Passing by the vineyards on the way back to Ammerschwihr.

Grapes growing up the hillside as far as you can see.

After a quite rest back in Ammerschwihr we were invited to join Laure and her partner Manu to go to their friend Esther’s birthday party 30km away in Guebwiller. She works for a winery and is also the caretaker for the main building, living onsite in flat built on the third floor.

After dinner and drinks we attempted to play the French version of Charades which had its challenges with seven native French speakers and two native English speakers. Mix in some booze and it made for quite an entertaining evening.

Ester’s three month old Australian Shepherd Jincy.

After nearly six hours of hyperactivity, Jincy finally depleted his energy reserves.
We arrived back in Ammerschwihr at about 2:30am, well past my bedtime.

Europe 2014 quick links

Day 1: London to Sint-Gillis-Waas
Day 2: Sint-Gillis-Waas to Bad Driburg
Day 3: Bad Driburg to Berlin
Day 4: Berlin
Day 5: Berlin to Prague
Day 6: Prague
Day 7: Prague to Wemding
Day 8: Wemding to Ammerschwihr
Day 9: Ammerschwihr
Day 10: Ammerschwihr
Day 11: Ammerschwihr to Eschdorf
Day 12: Eschdorf to London