A circuit from Strasbourg, July 2012
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Strasbourg – Niederbronn – Natzwiller – Colroy La Roche – Colmar – Selestat – Strasbourg. About 420km
Defined by two natural frontiers running south/north for 200km – the Rhine to the east and the Vosges mountains to the west – Alsace is a neatly self-contained region that cries out for a cycling tour. Art cities, vineyards, storks … what’s not to like, on a bike?
Using the fast train from Paris, you could start in Basel or Mulhouse and make your way slowly north, and return from Strasbourg. This would take in the art cities and the wine road, but it would be an incomplete view of Alsace, and I suspect a slightly repetitive one. We decided on a slightly more ambitious and varied tour, starting and finishing at the excellent Hotel du Dragon in Strasbourg (reached by train from Calais via Lille). Two days in the north, two days in the Vosges and two days on the wine road …. was not quite long enough. An extra day or even two would have been better.
We expected our ride through the hills to be torture, made endurable by the prospect of the wine road to come. Quite the opposite, in fact. Our time in the Vosges was the highlight, partly thanks to two superb hotels: the Metzger in Natzwiller (mid-price) and La Cheneaudière (expensive) in Colroy la Roche. After the empty roads in the Vosges we found the most famous wine villages (Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé and Turckheim) overcrowded and touristy, and much preferred Bergheim and Mittelbergheim, beautiful working wine villages (with storks).
Lunch at the Auberge de l’Ill at Illhaeusern was another milestone moment, which stretched to several hours.
Route planning tips: the Grand’ Rue is an easy way from the station to the city centre in Strasbourg; and the towpath of the Rhone/Rhine Canal is a brilliant way in to and out of the city from/to the south. Our attempt to follow the Rhine northwards from Strasbourg on the first day was less successful; the resulting delays meant we never got to Wissembourg.
Strasbourg Palace of Europe (?)
A chance meeting with distant cousins, near the Rhine at Strasbourg
They shall not pass. We did, but the cost in mud, punctures and aggravation was terrible. Near Rumersheim (new TGV line in the making)
Heading south. Niederbronn to Natzwiller was a long day, wind against
Auberge Metzger, Natzwiller. Worth a big detour. Note: the quickest way to Le Struthof is not back down to the entrance to the village
Le Struthof. Burn the bodies to heat the water
Le Champ du Feu (1099m), the top of our tour. Note no panniers.
Breakfast at la Cheneaudière, Colroy-La-Roche. Bread and butter pudding (clafoutis) recommended
La Cheneaudière. Coming soon: a 5-storey spa
La Route des Vins at St-Hippolyte
Below Haut Koenigsbourg
First stork (Bergheim)
Lunch this way
weekend lunch menu. watercolour by J-P Haeberlin
Some ash on sir’s goat’s cheese?
Too good to eat?
(Macaron au blanc-manger, sorbet basilic-citron-vert)
Auberge de l’Ill. Wind in the willows
Madame Marie and her storks. Plat du jour: raw meat from the kitchen
On the wine road
Sélestat: monastic life tolerably comfortable
a monument to le passé historique; Sélestat
With Philippe Bon at Rieffel’s in Mittelbergheim
Picnic area/swimming pool on the Rhine near le Kempferhof