With its rich cultural tapestry, iconic white wines, and Barge Lady Ellen’s recent canal cruise on the 4-star, 12-passenger Panache, the Alsace-Lorraine was the obvious choice for our opening Cruise Region Spotlight feature.
Pour a glass of chilled Riesling and join us for a deep dive into one of France’s most idiosyncratic and enticing corners…
With 1.7 million inhabitants welcoming 20 million visitors every year, the Alsace-Lorraine is rapidly adapting to its prominence as an on-trend destination! The smallest region in France, its location between the Vosges mountains and the Rhine informs both its natural beauty and German influence.
Given its history of official borders flipping between France and Germany due to political winds and military events, the Alsace-Lorraine is a region that often looks and even sounds German. However, as the region’s capital of Strasbourg was the birthplace of the Marseillaise national anthem, it’s easy to appreciate the many reasons why the Alsace-Lorraine remains among the most passionately and proudly French of all France’s provinces.
According to Jean-Christophe Harrand, the region’s Tourism Promotion Senior Manager, the secret to the emerging Alsatian appeal is “…an authenticity preserved in a beautiful natural setting; an ancestral heritage and the audacity of creators; and passionate designers who allow traditions to live in modernity.”
From this broad perspective, historical treasures and modern pleasures of the region soon come into view: the 110-mile Route des Vins d’Alsace, crossing the main wine producing areas of the region; adorable riverside villages with streets of half-timbered houses overflowing with geraniums; and the expansive mountain scenery of the Vosges and the regional parks. “Without denying its roots, Alsace adapts and develops to satisfy its visitors,” he explains.
As with all cultural immersions, cuisine is often the first avenue of tangible access, and the hearty culinary offerings within the Alsace-Lorraine directly reflect its German influence. Alsatian food is synonymous with enjoyment and conviviality, as the dishes are substantial, and served in generous portions. The region’s signature recipe, Tarte Flambée, or Flammenkueche, is composed of bread dough rolled out very thinly in the shape of a rectangle, which is then covered with fromage blanc or crème fraîche, and topped off with thinly sliced onions bacon bits, and is of course paired with a variety of wonderful French spirits and wines. Bon Appetit, indeed!
Speaking of wine – the Alsace-Lorraine is renowned for their astounding vin blancs! Along with Austria and Germany, the Alsace produces some of the most celebrated dry Rieslings in the world, as well as the wonderfully aromatic Gewürztraminer wines. According to Mr. Harrand, more and more vineyards along the Route de Grand Crus are showcasing their pampered grapes through private vineyard visits, relaxed cellar tours, and sommelier-selected samplings. “Many Alsatian wineries have evolved to openly share their special viniculture with visitors,” he enthuses.
For a further taste of the region’s international influences, exploring the Alsace-Lorraine as a great producer of beer leads to many delicious discoveries. Combining traditional Germanic brewing techniques with the passion of French culinary culture, the brewers within Alsace-Lorraine produce truly exceptional elixirs. Pure water from underground wells, locally-fermented malt from French-grown barley, and varieties of the most aromatic hops from local farms are just some of the ingredients used by Alsatian brewers today, honoring traditional beer-making methods while highlighting the region’s botanical bounty.
The Alsace-Lorraine also boasts an impressive roster of activities and attractions. Strasbourg’s beautifully preserved city center beckons with Gothic churches and pedestrian-friendly streets. Nancy, a riverfront city in northeastern France, is the birthplace of Art Nouveau art and architecture, and is home to the museum of Rene Lalique, creator of some of the world’s most sophisticated glass works. Most extraordinary, however, is the Arzviller Boat Lift, which was created in 1969 to move pleasure vessels 450 feet up or down a mountain — in just ten minutes!
“I had been really looking forward to this, as I recently cruised in the Alsace-Lorraine on the barge Panache,” Ellen fondly recalls. ”It was an incredible experience!”
For more of our personal insights into the Alsace-Lorraine, as well as information about the lovely barges offering cultural and culinary canal cruises in that region, please click here.