Written by koshkha on 04 Oct, 2013
One of the most important things to know about Strasbourg airport is that its code is SXB and not STR. Why do I mention this? Because repeatedly our company travel agent has booked me flights to Stuttgart in response to requests for Strasbourg. The first…Read More
One of the most important things to know about Strasbourg airport is that its code is SXB and not STR. Why do I mention this? Because repeatedly our company travel agent has booked me flights to Stuttgart in response to requests for Strasbourg. The first time I thought it was funny – now I want to reach through my screen, grab the travel agency folk by the throat and shake them. "STRASBOURG you half wits, not bloody Stuttgart, they aren’t even in the same country".Such are the trials of the busy traveller who occasionally pops into Strasbourg.For a city that serves as one of the European Union’s hub cities, Strasbourg has an airport that’s surprisingly small and rather poorly served. Flying from the UK to Strasbourg we used to have two options – via Amsterdam with shockingly short ‘grab your bag and run for it’ connection times, or via Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. Despite both being in the same airline ‘grouping’, having two options tended to introduce at least a sense of competition. Then earlier in the year it all went horribly wrong and the Paris option was destroyed. Yes, you can fly to CDG airport but if you want to fly onwards to Strasbourg, you have to transfer to Orly airport for the connection. This can take a considerable time – it’s a bit like landing in Birmingham and connecting out of Manchester but with France’s biggest city and all its traffic in between. Prices have shot up since the Paris option was changed.Another thing to think of if you plan to fly to Strasbourg is your dates. Unless you have friends and family and a free place to stay, availability of hotel rooms is very poor and prices are very high every time the European Parliament is in sitting. With the exception of August, the parliament is ‘in session’ at least one week every month and sometimes two. Outside those session weeks there are still political groups and committees working at the Parliament but the weeks to really avoid are the ‘in session’ ones when hotels are hard to come by and flights – especially those coming in on Monday and leaving on Thursday evening or Friday morning are rarer than hens’ teeth. My advice is to check the Europarl website to confirm the dates. Most of the flights into and out of Strasbourg airport are in quite small planes. There are many flights from across France but relatively few international ones. Of the 29 places you can reach with a direct flight, 15 are in France and several more are in French speaking north Africa. This is an airport for French people travelling to France rather than for outsiders. For budget flight seekers, the options are very limited. Ryanair do fly in – I would guess theirs are probably some of the biggest planes – but they go only to London Stansted and Porto.I would guess many of the senior Eurocrats and travelling in their nifty little private jets, but the options for the rest of us are small scheduled aircraft. There’s a new airline called ‘Hop!’ which now flies the Amsterdam to Strasbourg route and I laugh each time that a French company gave itself a name that starts with a letter no French person can say. "Welcome aboard this Op flight to Strasbourg"Arriving in Strasbourg is an easy and trouble-free event. The small size of the airport means you’re quickly into the terminal, there are few flights from non-Schengen countries so if you do need to go through passport control it won’t be busy, and the baggage handlers are quick off the mark and deliver the bags to the arrivals hall very quickly. Because of the small size of many of the planes, you may well have to check your luggage but that won’t detain you too much. If you need a taxi, there are plenty outside or there’s a fast train service that runs to the centre of the city for those who are staying centrally.Flying from Strasbourg is also very easy and it’s not a place you should rush to get to too early. This is one of those airports where you can arrive half an hour before departure without getting stressed but due to the local traffic conditions at peak times, I’d advise to always aim to be there an hour before just in case you get stuck on the way. There are several self-check in machines and a small number of human-operated check in and bag deposit desks. The security area is small and the queues are seldom long since they tend to open up all the lanes and keep things flowing. On one occasion the security officer decided that I was ‘suspicious’ and forced me to go into a side room with a police woman for a semi-strip search. This is something that has never happened to me before despite flying over a hundred flights a year for the past 15 years and no explanation or apology was given and there were no guns or bombs stuffed in my bra.Once you are through security there is very little to excite the average traveller. There’s a small duty free shop, a rather uninspired snack bar and some rather worn out seating. There is allegedly free Wi-fi for which you need to have a phone number that can receive messages in order to register. I have such a phone but I’ve never succeeded in getting the Wi-fi to work and now I don’t bother to try.Most aircraft are accessed by bus transfers although undoubtedly Ryanair will make you walk to their planes to save money.On the plus side, I like Strasbourg airport because it’s small, usually quite quiet, and it runs efficiently. I don’t like the drab surroundings, the lack of anything to do and the lousy Wi-Fi and I hope to goodness to never again be treated like a terrorist by the security staff. My best advice is fly in on a Thursday evening and out on a Monday morning and you’ll always be going against the prevailing flow of politicians and their hangers on. Close
Written by Wasatch on 23 Jul, 2008
Over several trips, we have spent about 100 days traveling around France, driving more than 18,000 miles. From this experience, we found that Alsace, from the Vosges to the Rhine River, is the best France has to offer. Indeed, Alsace is one…Read More
Over several trips, we have spent about 100 days traveling around France, driving more than 18,000 miles. From this experience, we found that Alsace, from the Vosges to the Rhine River, is the best France has to offer. Indeed, Alsace is one of the highlights of Europe. Alsace has three parts: 1] the Vosges Mountains– think the Black Forest with much better food; 2] the Route de Vin Alsace, the Alsacian wine road running almost the length of Alsace where the mountains meet the Rhine River Plain; and 3] The Rhine Plain, demarcated by the River Rhine(Germany) on the east and Vosges mountains on the west.The Vosges look very similar to the Black Forest or to America’s Appalachian Mtns. I can’t give them a high recommendation because, if you like mountain scenery, the Alps or America’s Rocky and Andes Mtns are so much better that there is no reason to visit places like the Vosges or the Black Forest, but if you are not familiar with mountain scenery, odds are you will like driving around the Vosges. The most scenic drive is the Route de Cretes. There are pleasant villages and grand panoramic views of tree covered hills. The best places in the Vosges are the views from the Ballon de Alsace and the Grand Ballon, and Haut Koenigsbourg Castle. Just uphill from the Route de Vin, Haut Koenigsbourg stands 2,000 ft above the plain. The castle dates back to the early 12th Century, but it was destroyed by the Swedish army around 1630. German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm’s daughter rebuilt it in 1900 (Alsace has traded sides between France and Germany throughout history, which is why German as well as French names are found). The tour of the castle, its military museum, and the views from the walls are about as good as castles come in Europe. Driving the twisting mountain roads in the Vosges is slow going. The Route de Vin Alsace is the star of Alsace. The road, marked with signs showing you the route, runs north-south along the meeting of the Vosges and the Rhine plain, through a chain of little villages full of remarkably quaint pastel painted half-timbered houses from the 16th Century. The seemingly endless vineyards climbing the foothill of the Vosges form an attractive setting for the villages. Along the Route de Vins, be sure to visit Riquewihr, Ribeauville, Obrenoi,Barr, and Kaysersberg.The Rhine Plain is home to the participle cities of Alsace, Strasbourgand Colmar. Both cities have canals, delightful half-timbered buildings, cathedrals, and excellentfood. Strasbourg is easy to visit by car if you take the E25 expressway on thewest side of the city and exit at the first exit south of the intersection with A351. In five blocks,this road dead ends on the banks of the Ill, directly across from Petite France. Park on the westside of the river and walk from there. Do not cross the bridge over the Rhine from Germany intoFrance, it takes forever to get through the grid lock. It is fairly easy to drive around in Colmar.Ebersmunster’s Baroque church is the best such in France, not that there are all that many. Whilethe most attractive villages are along the Route de Vin, there are also some outstanding ones onthe plain at Wissembourg, Haguenau, andHunspach, whose black and white half timbered houses stand in strikingcontrast to the pastel colors in the rest of Alsace. Alsace is noted for its fine restaurants, including what many say is thebest in France, the very expensive Le Auberge d’ Ill in Illerhausen. Makereservations far ahead. We tried four months ahead. No luck. We also took ashot at getting lunch without reservations. No luck there either, but wedid get to see the inside of the place. The highest possible Michelinrating is three stars and five red crossed knives and forks. Onerestaurant in Paris gets this. So does the Auberge d’Ill, and it is worthstopping if only for a glimpse of the interior. Alsace is a noted wine growing region, especially for white wines, andespecially for Gerwurztraminer. We prefer it to almost all other whitewines, not the least for its ability to go with almost anything.Alsace alternated between being part of France and part of Germany, sothere is strong German influence in the culture, including the best beerin France, so you must have two diners in Alsace, one withGerwurztraminer and one with beer.If you hate sauerkraut, be sure to order sauerkraut, especiallyChoucroute Garni( there is detailed description of the dish in my review of the restaurant L’Europeen, Rhone River Cruise journal) or a l’Alsacienne for diner. It will transform youropinion of sauerkraut. Here’s how to do it at home. Buy only sauerkrautwrapped in plastic bag in a refrigerated case at the grocery store--absolutely no canned kraut or kraut in glass jar. Dump the kraut in a bigbowl and fill it with water. Soak and drain the kraut three times in a half hour. Pour the kraut into a colander and let it drain for at least 15 minutes. Now proceed with the recipe from a good cook book with this change. Never cook kraut for more than 10-15 minutes, preferably in alittle white wine in a covered pot. Serve, and drink Gerwurztraminer orbeer. This is a trip is best done by car, which usually is, for 2-4 people, thecheapest way to travel in France. It can be done by bus or bicycle, butthe train does not go to most of the quaint villages. Airfare and rentalcar is usually cheaper to Frankfurt than to Paris, but check both.Luxemburg is the closest airport, and Munich is also a reasonable option. If arriving by car from the east (Germany or Switzerland), avoid driving through Basil or Strasbourg. Cross the Rhine at Colmar or north of Strasbourg (to get to Wissembourg, Haguenau, and Hunspach). Close
Written by moatway on 10 Apr, 2004
I used three Ibis Hotels at the beginning of this trip because, well, because it was so easy to book them. I used smoothhound, but I could just have easily used ibishotels. Having done it, and having received my immediate confirmations, I began to have…Read More
I used three Ibis Hotels at the beginning of this trip because, well, because it was so easy to book them. I used smoothhound, but I could just have easily used ibishotels. Having done it, and having received my immediate confirmations, I began to have second thoughts… perhaps I should have worked harder and found some charming Old-World hotels… perhaps I should cancel and start again.
Well, I didn’t and I was pleased that I didn’t. What the Ibis chain gives the traveler is predictability at a fair price. They are two-stars, after all, so what would one expect? One could expect clean accommodations with a comfortable bed, a small desk, a TV and one hard chair. If you get more than that, you’re lucky. There will be a bath, probably with a shower but possibly with a shower/tub.
The hotels I used were the Ibis St. Laurent Petit France in Strasbourg, the Ibis Colmar Center, and the Ibis LePuy St. Laurent. The Strasbourg hotel did have a bathtub, was just across the bridge from historical Strasbourg, was on the tram line and close to the station. It did have a secure parking lot. It was priced at 62 Euros plus 8 Euros for parking and 12 Euros for a good breakfast for two.
The Colmar property was shower only and was priced at 56 Euros plus 3 Euros for parking and 12 Euros for a good breakfast for two. It was 3 minutes walking from the center of historical Colmar. The Le Puy property had a weekend rate of 40 Euros plus 3.50 for parking and again, 12 Euros for a good breakfast. It was an ideal location for seeing historical Le Puy. Average price? 69.50 Euros per night.
So I said “good breakfast” three times. And it was. Just as all the room doors were the same colour in all three properties, there was an extreme level of predictability. It was going to be clean and serviceable. Each had a small bar if one wished. Each honoured my request for a non-smoking room. Now mind you, the rooms are tight, but if you’re staying in Strasbourg, Colmar or LePuy, why do you need space to roam in your hotel room?
Written by UK Flower Girl on 09 Mar, 2004
Unless you plan to spend a significant amount of time in this area, you will have to pick and choose which villages you would like to visit. My husband and I keep going back to the ones we love, even though we know we…Read More
Unless you plan to spend a significant amount of time in this area, you will have to pick and choose which villages you would like to visit. My husband and I keep going back to the ones we love, even though we know we need to explore more of these delights.
This has to be one of the prettiest village in the Alsace area.
This has to be another of the prettiest villages in Alsace located near Ribeauville in the central part of the wine region.
This is the third village I recommend you visit.
A good website to start your planning is Alsace Online. A friendly little man will show you the way through the website :)
The wine in this region is wonderfully tasty and mostly white (there is one red grape, the pinot noir). Alsatian wines are "varietal," meaning pressed from one grape variety, and are identified by grape and the maker’s name. There are a few variations…Read More
The wine in this region is wonderfully tasty and mostly white (there is one red grape, the pinot noir). Alsatian wines are "varietal," meaning pressed from one grape variety, and are identified by grape and the maker’s name. There are a few variations on that, but mostly this is how it is done.
The vineyards stretch for over 200km (130 miles) across the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. They start in the south at Thann and extend all the way north to Marlenheim. You can drive this wine route for miles and miles and see nothing but vineyards and quaint little villages with cobbled streets, bright flowers and people enjoying the scenery.
Should you decide to follow the route for a while, make sure you have a map with you. There are signs to follow the route, but we missed our turns more than one time because there just aren't enough signs. We finally decided to follow the general rule at the roundabouts that if there was no sign, go straight. It also takes a great amount of time to wind your way through these villages. We wound our way through for some time and then got on the Autostrada going south from Strasbourg to make up some time.
Alsace is about as far north as you can go when it comes to grapes in France. The area is cast in the rain shadows of the mountains. This creates just enough rain for the vineyards. The best wines in the region are the ones that are located further east, right on the foothills. "The best vineyards in the area lie at a fairly consistent altitude, between 200 and 350 meters (656 and 1146 feet), on fairly steep, well-drained soil, slanting southeast to south, making the most of the available sunshine" (Quoted from Oz Clarke's Wine Atlas)
There are whole books written on grapes and wine and all of the different distinctions. I will give you a few brief ideas about the wines in Alsace:
Most of the finer wines come from the central section of vineyards in the Haut-Rhin department, just to the west of Colmar. Many of the vines that are worked in the Alsace area were planted many centuries ago by Romans.
Grand Cru wines are quite fine. The name was applied to areas of land where the finest grapes were produced. Alsace has around 50 Grand Crus now that represent only 4% of Alsace's wine production. Only four "Noble" grapes in this area are entitled to the status: Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Muscat d'Alsace.
The next level down is simply the Alsace AC (meaning Appellation Control). This appears on all labels and any grape variety is acceptable. There is no intermediate level for the wines, but the French system seems to be out-of-whack right now and they are working on creating different levels.
There are a couple of others worth mentioning. There are dessert wines from the region called Vendange Tardive made from late-harvested grapes that are sweeter. Also, you will find Cremant d'Alsace AC, which is the sparkling wine made with the traditional methods of champagne (although only sparkling wines from the Champagne region can use this designation).
If you like wine, this is definitely a great place to visit. The wine is cheap and readily available. There are many places to do wine tastings to decide what to buy. You can also sit at a Winstub and drink to your heart's delight! The quaint little villages and all of the shopping available is just an added bonus to the great wine.
Written by NiceGinna on 15 Oct, 2008
You can drive with your American license in France; you do not need to get an international driving license, just to come for a vacation. If you plan to be longer in France, it is worth while to get a French driver's license.…Read More
You can drive with your American license in France; you do not need to get an international driving license, just to come for a vacation. If you plan to be longer in France, it is worth while to get a French driver's license. We were very lucky: like a few States, our home State, Illinois, has a reciprocal agreement with France and all we had to do was turn in our Illinois license and receive a French one. If you have to go through the process of getting a license, we understand that it takes a long time with lessons in French, both driving and written tests, and a high rate of failure.The rules for driving in France can be quite a change for Americans. One rule that shocked us is that the car coming out of a side street on the right has the right-of-way! You can be cruising along on the main street, thinking you have the right-of-way, and all of a sudden someone comes out of a side street in front of you. He is right; you must yield.Another interesting law is that it is illegal to run out of gas on the autoroute! Each person is responsible for ensuring that he/she has enough gas in the tank. In case of other emergency there are phones along each autoroute to call for help. You must don the yellow flourescent "vest" which is required inside each car (not in the trunk) to leave your car; then put of the emergency signal that is in each trunk. Then call or signal for help. Close
Written by davidx on 25 Nov, 2002
Just some very general points which do not lend themselves to other pages.
One of the first things I heard about Alsace was that they speak a mixed-up language there - I remember that 'pas de luft' was an instance quoted. I did not hear anything…Read More
Just some very general points which do not lend themselves to other pages.
One of the first things I heard about Alsace was that they speak a mixed-up language there - I remember that 'pas de luft' was an instance quoted. I did not hear anything to confirm this observation myself but, on the contrary I was very struck by the way the lady in the baker's shop spoke either French or German depending on the person buying, switching easily from one to the other. In my case she waited to see what I spoke to her and responded in kind but she usually opened the conversation with her regulars. I do not think this was anything out of the ordinary for the area but it was where I had most opportunity to observe.
Strasburg and Colmar are something special as is the road over the tops but a lot of the villages, charming as they certainly are, depend on the same two things, storks and geraniums. We were there well after the season for nesting but the nests were still to be seen, some with dummy storks in them. The geraniums were ubiquitous and they were almost all the same shade of bright red.
Whereas we got a lot of enjoyment from our visits to Colmar and Strasburg and from the campsite where we were staying, we were not sorry to leave after about 4 nights for the French Jura area, whereas we were very sorry to leave the latter area a week later.
Written by NiceGinna on 13 Oct, 2008
It's best to get ready for travel by not drinking a lot the day before and not drinking a lot on the plane. I usually have just one small bottle with the dinner. And drink plenty of water.We find that we don't sleep…Read More
It's best to get ready for travel by not drinking a lot the day before and not drinking a lot on the plane. I usually have just one small bottle with the dinner. And drink plenty of water.We find that we don't sleep well on the plane coming east, and we arrive somewhat tired. But to get over jetlag, it helps to stay up the first night as late as we can. Then we sleep as long as we want (this time, 11 hours!); when we wake, we're in pretty good shape.Don't expect things to go smoothly upon arrival. Airports are stressful places. As accustomed to travel as we are, we often find that getting the car, getting out of the airport, finding our way can be challenging. There have been many times when the car we thought we'd rented was not available, especially if we've opted for an "automatique". Don't forget to ask for a map. Be patient with people and with yourselves!It's often a good idea to find a hotel before you leave the States, so that you will at least have a place to stay the night you arrive. Finding it may be daunting; a cab to the hotel is a good idea. It may be a splurge but it may save your sanity. If you are driving to a city or town (easier) and then finding your hotel, try to arrive in daylight hours. Finding a hotel, whether pre-booked or not, in the dark in not a fun exercise. Close
Written by NiceGinna on 11 Mar, 2009
Strasbourg is very near the German border and this is shown clearly in its cuisine, heavy on the pork sausages and sauerkraut. Their white wines are famous. Culturally, Strasbourg has a lot to offer with lots of museums and a beautiful cathedral.…Read More
Strasbourg is very near the German border and this is shown clearly in its cuisine, heavy on the pork sausages and sauerkraut. Their white wines are famous. Culturally, Strasbourg has a lot to offer with lots of museums and a beautiful cathedral. Its Old Town on an island known as the Grande Ile and area known as La Petite France are surrounded by rivers and canals where, on a lovely day, it is wonderful to take a boatride. Close
Written by NiceGinna on 10 Mar, 2009
I love all the lovely signs that the Alsacien village shops have to indicate what wonderful things they have to sell. Here are just a few...…Read More
I love all the lovely signs that the Alsacien village shops have to indicate what wonderful things they have to sell. Here are just a few... Close