I have an ongoing list of things France does everything better than everyone else.
- Side Salads
Add now I add to that list – Germany.
France does Germany better than Germany itself. Strasbourg is a town right on the border of the two countries – which means while it is in France there is heavy German influence. The area is called Alsace, and the cuisine Alsatian; a perfect blend of French and German staples. This creates dishes like flammkuchen – a paper-thin tart with emmenthal, lardons, onions, and cream. Apples meet French pastry to form desserts like tarte tatin. The boulangeries sell “bretzels” and oversized, heart-shaped gingerbread cookies that read “je t’aime” in white icing. People actually drink beer, Gewurztraminer, and a type of sparking called crémant d’Alsace. The towns are built of half-timber houses with colorful shutters, and outdoor cafes have sheep-skin throws and red-and-white check tablecloths.
Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace. When I realized we were near to it, and had two days with no agenda, I convinced Josh to vive la France for the weekend! This is never very hard to do. Among the many things I love about my husband is his love for France. (It does not match my own, but nobody’s does). If you continue South from there, you’ll find a string of smaller, even more charming towns in the same vein – beginning with Colmar, where we ventured for the afternoon.
Colmar was so adorable that despite the glaring sunshine, I had to remove my glasses; I couldn’t stand to have anything between my eyes and the candy-colored, half-timbered houses that lined the canals. It’s the town from the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast, IRL. It’s what dreams of made of – sugar-coated and dipped in chocolate.
Every corner and street became more scenic as we wandered. Charcuterie shops, ice cream stands, and crêperies, were scattered between the shops selling red ceramic dishes and mugs painted with sheep and phrases like “I went to Alsace and thought of my Papa.” The air around the biscuiterie was fragrant with baking butter, and smiling ladies stood passing out little gouts to everyone who passed. I accepted a still-warm coconut blob that melted in my mouth and made my heart ache. I’ve been to many a cute towns in France, but this was the cutest.
Twirling through the narrow cobblestone streets, my smile was un-crackable and eyes glittering. I dished out bonjours and cavas to every person I passed on the little bridges overspilling flower boxes. There’s nothing to do here but admire them, and of course – eat. We found a small cafe called Fleur de Sel, and got a table canal-side in the warm sunshine. We devoured a crispy tarte Alsace and coupe de Crémant. I could have died with no regrets, right then and there.
I spent the rest of the day walking through town singing songs from Beauty and the Beast, not caring who could hear me, and trying to convince Josh that we should drop everything and move to Colmar. I’d open the town’s first cupcakerie, or perhaps a shop where you could rent adult-sized Belle costumes for the day.
As I crawled into bed that night, my heart full, and belly full, and eyes still sparkling I realized that I’m my best self in France. I don’t think I’ve ever spent a moment here frowning. Nothing can ruin a day for me – even rain somehow gives France an extra layer of charm. When I’m here, at all times, I feel I could at any moment simply burst from happiness. The French call it joie de vivre . The simple joy of being alive; alive in a place as wonderful as France.
Les Choses Practique:
Colmar is fifty minute drive south of Strasbourg, France.
You can take a direct train from the Strasbourg station in thirty-five minutes for about €12
The nearest airport is Strasbourg or Basel, Switzerland
after walking through the town dine canal-side at Fleur de Sel
take a thirty minute boat tour of the canals for €6 departing from various points on the canal