We arrived in Colmar via car from Strasbourg late on a Wednesday evening. Our itinerary had us in Colmar for two nights and then we drove to Strasbourg via the Alsace Wine Route visiting Kaysersberg and Riquewihr along the way. In retrospect, we had too much time in Colmar, especially since we did not do any day trips to nearby villages during our time there.
If I was to visit Colmar again (or for the first time), I’d do things differently and follow one of the below itineraries.
- A day trip arriving late morning and departing after dinner.
- A one-night stay arriving in the afternoon and departing the following morning
- A one-night stay arriving late evening and departing the following afternoon.
For dinner, we dined at La Stub, a restaurant specializing in a regional dish called tarte flambée.
A tarte flambée is basically a wafer-thin pizza crust that is traditionally topped with [sour/tart] cream, onions, and bacon. It just sounds gross in my opinion but, hey, when in Rome…
Another popular set of toppings is [sour/tart] cream, onions, bacon, and cheese (Emmental, Munster, goat cheese). This combination of toppings sounds as gross as the first combination but even more unhealthy because it contains cheese.
We tried two tartes flambées:
- Cream, onions, and bacon
- Cream, onions, bacon, and Emmental
This meal was the one and only time we ate a tarte flambée during our five-day holiday. Overall, they were meh. They tasted sour and tart but not overpowering. The tarte topped with Emmental was less sour but for me, this was just fuel for my body. The calorie-to-taste ratio was off – too many calories for what it was.
Over the next five days, I concluded that French cheese from this region is not inline with my tastebuds. The French believe the stronger the smell, the better the cheese and I believe the opposite. I also concluded that the stinky feet smell that I smelled in every restaurant was actually cheese.
After dinner, we briefly strolled around the empty old town. There were boarded-up Christmas Market stalls and a pub here-and-there but the village was mostly quiet and it wasn’t even 10pm.
The following morning we ate a quick breakfast of chocolate cake and cappuccinos at Au Croissant Dore. Restaurants and bars in France are non-smoking, however, halfway through our breakfast, I smelled smoke and Peter informed me that the owner was sitting at a table in the back room/kitchen smoking a cigarette.
Having been back in the UK for six months, I am reminded of the high smoking rate in the UK and Europe. The English government wants England to be smoke-free by 2030. This is laughable but not in a good way. As I sit in this coffee shop writing this post, the man sitting next to me has just come back inside from smoking a cigarette and, well, I’d like to move tables because the entire shop smells like smoke now.
After dessert/breakfast, we walked to the neighborhood of La Petite Venise (“Little Venice”). This is the most photographed area of Colmar. It is pretty but it is not the only pretty area of Colmar. All of Colmar is pretty.
In the opposite direction of La Petite Venise, there is a modern indoor market hall with restaurants (avoid the pho restaurant) and stalls selling bread, meat, salads, produce, and stinky feet-smelling cheese.
Next, we walked around the historic old town and this was when I realized that there wasn’t a central area where the Christmas Market stalls were set up. Instead, there were clusters of stalls set up in squares and open spaces around the village.
In addition to stalls, almost every building was decorated with lights and greenery. Some buildings were more festive than others but together with the stalls, the atmosphere was extremely festive.
We purchased a glass of mulled wine and I was reminded that I do not enjoy mulled wine. As I took my second sip, I looked around at everyone drinking mulled wine and wondered how many were faking that they liked it just like I was.
There were three main types of mulled wine available for purchase, all were mixed with spices and honey.
- Red wine
- White wine
- Apple juice
Next, we walked to the train station because I saw it on our FlixBus ride the day prior and I thought it was pretty. And also because we had walked the entire old town and had hours of time to kill before our next meal.
On our way back to the old town from the train station, we decided that it was wine time, however, it was in the middle of the afternoon when restaurants and bars were closed. The problems of French culture, I tell you.
Before our trip to Alsace, I imagined that there would be wine tasting rooms in Colmar, Strasbourg and the villages along the wine route but this was not the case, at least not within walking distance from where we spent most of our time. In Colmar’s old town, we found one winery that had a tasting room, Domaine Karcher so we went there!
Our “tasting” at Domaine Karcher was very strange. We walked into the shop and went to the counter where two other customers were tasting wine. I was expecting to be presented with a tasting menu, maybe two tasting menus (e.g. regular and library wines) from which we’d select which tasting we would like to do and then we’d taste wines but that is not how it went down.
We were handed a giant book describing their wines along with the prices per bottle, case, etc. There was no tasting menu and we were not sure what the next step in this process was because we were there to taste wine, not necessarily buy wine.
We asked if we could do a tasting (meaning taste a few wines, likely from a wine tasting menu) and she answered, “Yes, which wine would you like to taste?”
I wanted to answer, “All of them!” but I knew that would not be an appropriate response nor would it garner a smile from the serious woman behind the counter. So we skimmed the giant book again and selected a random wine.
The truth was that I wanted to taste all of their wines! Alsace is primarily a white wine region (90 percent of production is white wine) and I wanted to learn more about the grapes grown in this region because some of them were not familiar to me. The main grape varieties grown in this region are:
- Pinot Gris
- Auxerrois Blanc (pronounced “oh-sehr-wah”)
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Blanc
I recently wrote about our confusion with French wine labels and their lack of grape variety details on this post. I learned that Alsace is the only French wine-growing region that participates in varietal labeling; it’s a practice that dates back to the region’s German days. Wines of a single variety (“varietal”) will typically include the grape variety on the label.
Blended wines are where things get confusing for consumers who depend on this type of information when buying wine. Some Alsace blended wine labels may cite a single grape variety (only one can be listed on the label, even in the case of blends) or, with the majority of blended wines, the label will not list a grape variety. To help ease consumer confusion, some labels now contain a sweetness level on the back of the label so check for it.
Finally, all wines bottled in this region must be bottled in tall skinny bottles known as Flûtes d’Alsace. The rules of French wine make my head spin.
Back to the wine tasting…
We ended up tasting two wines and bought a bottle because that is sort of what we felt like we were expected to do. Since we did not have a wine key, we asked if she could open the bottle for us (unsure if this was legal) and she opened it and our next stop was to the market for charcuterie and cheese.
Food and wine in hand, we went back to our hotel and ate and drank away our sorrows of the bad news we had just received. Our return train from Strasbourg to Paris had just been canceled due to the French train strikes.
As the saying goes, doop-de-do.
Our updated Canceled Train Tracker, which included our return trains to London, looked like this:
|Total canceled journeys|
SNCF canceled journeys (x3)
Canceled journeys by association* (x2)
|% journeys canceled**||62.5%|
*Eurostar train journeys that were not canceled by SNCF but could not be completed due to an SNCF canceled journey.
**Includes all canceled journeys.
We had three options:
- Book another Strasbourg to Paris train that would arrive in time for us to make our Eurostar connection to London.
- Take the FlixBus to Basel and fly back to London (using our return tickets we had previously purchased).
- Take a train to Basel and fly back to London.
After our hellish experience with FlixBus, option 2 was out because there was a 99 percent chance that the FlixBus would not get us to Basel on time and we would miss our flight.
With the French siesta over, we left our hotel in search of more wine and found it at Le Cercle Des Aromes. We did not have a reservation but they offered us a table until 8pm. We drank a lot of wine, snacked on charcuterie and not-smelly cheese and discussed how the hell we were going to get back to London. By the way, Le Cercle Des Aromes was my favorite restaurant/bar in Colmar – go there!
Later that night, we booked a train from Strasbourg to Basel and left our Paris to London Eurostar train as-is because we did not know if/when our plans needed to change again and we’d need that Eurostar train.
The next morning we checked out of our hotel and began our journey along the Alsace wine route!