The Alsace is a strip of wine country along the French / German border four hours south of Maastricht. There are lots of charming villages in the Hautes-Vosges foothills between Strasbourg and Colmar, each filled with excellent local cuisine, sparkling white wines, and enormous stork nests. An evening in Riquewihr is complete sitting out in the sunset with a glass of chilled Muscat listening to the bill-clatter of storks tending their huge nests.
Eguisheim is a small village west of Colmar, the birthplace of Pope Leo IX in 1002. His statue reigns over the fountain in the central town square.
The village is filled with houses and shops in the local style of irregular timberwork and pastel plaster. The facades around the main square can look almost artificial, just a Disneyland-facade created to draw in the tourists. This impression is heightened by the appearance of gardeners and streetcleaners early each morning, a backlot crew who set the stage for the flow of visitors throughout the day. But, venturing off into the narrow back streets, you’ll find crowded local bars and small courtyard restaurants, built long ago into functional variations of the same themes (Note: cobblestones and crutches do not mix).
The inns and cafe’s are high-quality, reasonably priced, and the town serves as a base for exploring the expansive vineyards and family wineries beyond the circular town road. A lot of these small vineyards offer an intimate tasting with the family in their homes, a nice change from the larger corporate kettles. Especially if you can speak a little French or German, these family operations give a glimpse of their inter-generational crafts and the wide character of white and sparkling wines in the area.