Are you ready to join me for my best-ever day in Strasbourg? If you are hungry now, you'll be ravenous when you're done reading about and viewing all the pictures from the "Taste the Best of Alsace" excursion I went on during my "Rhineland Discovery" river cruise (courtesy of Viking River Cruises*). I guarantee you'll want to book a visit to the Alsace region of France during your life after 50.
Arriving in the Alsace Region of France
It was the next to last day of our cruise on the Rhine, and activities were reaching a peak. Following visits to Bruges, Amsterdam, Kinderdijk, Cologne, Heidelberg and Rudesheim, the Viking EIR arrived outside Strasbourg, the largest port on the Upper Rhine and the center of France's Alsace region. Because Strasbourg borders on France and Germany, it boasts a unique cultural blend of both countries.
Food and City Tour of Strasbourg
While my boyfriend L stayed back and rested, I departed our ship early morning with five fellow female foodies for what would be the most ah-may-zing day of eating—literally ever, ever, ever—with Food and City Tours Strasbourg.
"Bonjour," said our guide Virginie as she greeted us for our bus trip into town. We each were given a shopping bag to fill with foods for our lunch at a local wine shop.
Virginie shared the history of Strasbourg, from its early Roman founding to the years under French rule, then back to German rule, then back to French, then back to German. "Since 1944, after World War II, Strasbourg became French again," said Virginie.
Ready, Set, Eat
Our tour began in the Public Square where a food market with local purveyors is held each Wednesday. The climate is like the Mediterranean—that's why there are wonderful fruits and vegetables. (Virginie told us that the Christmas market is here each December, so go book your river cruise now for next month. Maybe I'll go with you!)
We sampled sweet mirabelles, tiny yellow plums, which were in season. We bought some authentic Alsace pretzels for consuming at lunch. We tried kougelhopf, a traditional Alsace bread from the organic bakery Kristof Boulangerie. "It's like a brioche but round like the sun," said Virginie. "Kougelhopf is eaten on Sunday mornings. It takes a long time to bake and must rise twice. You can't keep this bread for more than a few days."
A Chocolate Lovers Dream
Next, we strolled the cobblestone streets to Christian patisseries and chocolate shop. We sat down in the back of the tearoom for our tasting of fromage blanc ice cream made with French cheeses, mirabelle sorbet and a selection of handmade chocolates. The first chocolate was made with cinnamon, the second with Chinese tea, and the third was a chocolate-robed orange rind. Pure joy!
We met Chef Christopher, the owner and maker of these wonderful chocolates. He told us about his network of small purveyors from places like Vietnam and Guatemala where he sources high-quality cocoa beans. I bought a few dark chocolate bars made with cocoa beans from Venezuela (which Chef Christopher said were best) to take home to L.
Bread, Cheese, Pastries and Wine
Full from our sweets, we headed to Pains Westermann, a popular boulangerie, to buy baguettes and then to La Cloche à Fromage where more than 500 kinds of cheeses are sold. Yves, the owner, offered us a variety of cheeses to sample including Munster cheese which originates from the area and is often served with a sprinkling of cumin, Comte cheese, bleu cheese, and a split cheese made half with the morning milk from the cow and half with the afternoon milk. So creamy! So good!
We left the cheese shop with a chilled bag filled with cheeses and charcuterie and walked to Litzler Vogel patisserie, known for its macarons and eclairs. I picked out a fig and vanilla macaron, and Virginie bought a selection of eclairs for lunchtime. This shop is heaven, pure heaven!
By early afternoon, after passing through the flea market, riding on a carousel and oohing at the cathedral, we arrived at the wine shop for lunch with Sommelier Christopher. "Cheese and wine is a French tradition," said Christopher. Out came the breads, cheeses, sausages and all the goodies from our morning walk. Our table was filled to the brim.
Then came the wine pairings. We sipped Muscat with the bleu cheese, pinot noir and other wines from the region. There was even wine jelly to top the cheeses.
And then, and then, and then, OMG, it was time to bite into the coffee and vanilla eclairs paired with sips of Cremant d'Alsace sparkling wine. "It is called éclair, which means lightning because you will eat it is so fast it is like a lightning bolt," said Christopher. I actually ate it slowly, savoring every last crumb. It was the best eclair I've ever eaten.
The tour could have ended with the éclairs, and I would have been happy. But it wasn't over. Could my stomach partake of more? Absolutement!
Tate Flambe and Gingerbread
Our afternoon walk took us to Au Bon Vivant Cafe where we dined on escargot, drank Picon (beer mixed with brandy) and helped Chef Michel make a Tarte Flambe. Bon Vivant means to enjoy life, and I was definitely enjoying this special day.
Before leaving Strasbourg we made one final stop at Pain d'Epice, where the baker Mirelle Oster sells her homemade gingerbread. Did I say I LOVE gingerbread? I do. I do. Mirelle makes a delicious gingerbread with seven spices: mace, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom pods, cloves and black pepper.
Virginie and her partner, Patricia, said their good-byes as we boarded the bus back to the Viking EIR. The six female foodies all agreed that the day was a best-ever feast of Strasbourg and thanked City and Food Tours for a most spectacular way to experience the Alsace region. (BTW, Strasbourg is only an hour ride by train from Paris.)
Back on Board
"I'm starving. Are you ready for dinner?" asked L when I entered our room. I accompanied L to the dining room but could not and would not put another morsel in my mouth. The waiter wondered if I was feeling OK. Yes, my tummy was full, or, as they say in France, j'ai trop mangé (literally, I ate too much)!
Soon our cruise on the Rhine would be coming to an end. Stay tuned for a recap of our last day including our trip into Germany's fabled forest. Will I be tempted to eat black forest cake? Will she convince L to try it too? More to come.
P.S. In case you missed my first recaps you can find them at:
My Travels on "Rhineland Discovery" – A Delight for the Senses
My Travels on "Rhineland Discovery" – First Stop Beautiful Bruges
My Travels on "Rhineland Discovery" – Adventures in Amsterdam
My Travels on "Rhineland Discovery" – A Lovely Last Day in Amsterdam
My Travels on "Rhineland Discovery" − Welcome to Kinderdijk and Cologne
My Travels on "Rhineland Discovery" – The Great Castles of Germany
*Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a "sponsored post." Viking River Cruises provided me with a complimentary press trip river cruise on the Rhine. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.