The Alsace Experience
2023 Dates: May 1 – 8; May 8 – 15
The Alsace Experience is based in the beautiful wine region between Colmar and Strasbourg, east of the Vosges mountains and west of the Rhine river and the German and Swiss borders. The Alsace Experience was first offered in 2016; we returned in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
The history of Alsace is a tumultuous one. The region shifted back and forth between Germany and France in three wars and has changed hands four times since 1870. You’ll definitely feel both French and German influences as we experience Alsace’s unique history, scenery, architecture, culture, and cuisine.
Wine production is one of Alsace’s major activities, and there are about 32,000 acres of vineyards. The region is best known for its white wines: Rieslings, Sylvaners, and Gewurtzraminers. These are wines not produced anywhere else in France. Alsace is also the major beer-producing area of France.
Alsatian cuisine reflects the strong Germanic influences. The most famous specialty is “choucroute,” a hearty dish featuring various kinds of pork and sausages, piled on a mound of sauerkraut and served with potatoes and carrots. Other traditional dishes include Bäckeoffe, Tarte Flambée and Coq au Riesling. Munster cheese is from this area.
Our groups will base in the historic wine village of Kientzheim, a charming and colorful village on the “Route des Vins,” just one mile from the larger village of Kaysersberg. We will stay in a traditional, locally-owned hotel in the center of the village.
Experiences in Alsace
The Alsace Experience will follow the same approach as our other Experience trips, including a variety of special activities and experiences unique to this area:
- Visits to colorful, flower-filled villages including Kaysersberg, Bergheim, Riquewihr, and Ribeauvillé.
- A walking tour in the famous town of Colmar, including its well preserved old town and “Petite Venise” quarter. The sculptor Bartholdi (creator of the Statue of Liberty) was from Colmar, and you can visit the Bartholdi museum or the famous Unterlinden museum during your free time in the town.
- Visits to the 12th century Haut-Koenigsbourg castle and the 7th century monastery/convent at Mont St. Odile, both with dramatic settings in the Vosges mountains.
- A day along the crest of the Vosges mountains, with expansive views of Alsace, the Black Forest, and the Alps. We’ll enjoy a special gastronomic lunch at a restaurant in a wine village and a traditional Alsatian meal at a ferme-auberge.
- Visits to World War I and World War II sites.
- Visits and tastings at small family-owned wineries to learn more about the famous Alsatian wines. In our own village of Kientzheim, we’ll visit the Museum of Vineyards and Wine and the Confrérie St Etienne. This is the association for Alsatian wine and one of the oldest wine brotherhoods in France.
- Memorable meals in a variety of settings featuring Alsatian specialties.
- Optional walks in the beautiful countryside.
- Time for relaxing and exploring on your own.
Learn more about The Alsace Experience:
An Alsace Experience: Village Préféré des Français (Kathy’s blog)
Alsace Experiences: Colorful villages filled with flowers (Kathy’s blog)
Signs and Symbols: Remembering the Unique Past of Alsace (Kelly’s blog)
We’re especially pleased that Kathy and Charley’s daughter, Kelly Wood, is the co-leader for this trip. Kelly is a 5th year PhD candidate in Modern French History at New York University. She has a particular focus on World War II and the period after the war, and has done extensive research throughout France, including considerable time in Alsace. Now living in Paris, Kelly will offer a unique and important perspective during our Alsace Experience week.
Arrivals and Departures
Our meeting/drop-off point is train station in Colmar, just 20 minutes from our base village of Kientzheim. Colmar is on the train line between Strasbourg and Mulhouse and does have several TGV trains each day, providing convenient access to Strasbourg, Paris, Charles de Gaulle airport, the EuroAirport (serving Mulhouse, France and Basel, Switzerland) and also southern France.
We always recommend arriving in Europe at least one day before our week begins to allow time to adjust to the time difference and a buffer in the event of any travel delays. Strasbourg is the capital city of Alsace and the official seat of the European Parliament. The medieval city is a UNESCO World Heritage site with both French and Germanic influences and a beautiful setting on the River Ill. You’ll definitely want to spend some time in Strasbourg before or after our week together. Other travelers have also enjoyed the small city of Mulhouse in the south of Alsace and the town of Sélestat between Strasbourg and Colmar. (We suggest you not spend the night in Colmar before our week begins, as we’ll spend a full day here as a group.)
Leaders: Kathy Wood and Kelly Wood