Ever Been to Itterswiller?

Of all the well-known villages of the Alsace, you may wonder how I stumbled upon a place called Itterswiller. Well, instead of consulting tour books, I get all my travel tips from fellow bloggers like you. There’s nothing like real-life experiences and up close and personal pictures for gathering information. So I look to you to find places that fit my criteria—that being places with indescribable charm, places that are peaceful, and places with beautiful scenery, along with opportunities for good food and wine of course! Thus, I found Itterswiller.

Such a small, quiet village really but filled with adorable charm. No tour buses or crowds to be found here. Thus, we visited twice. Located at the foot of the Vosges Mountains on the Alsatian wine route, this village of flowers with a four-star ville fleurie classification (the highest) has endless opportunities for hikes in the majestic countryside. Nearby, is the 13th-century Château d’Andlau, which can be reached by a moderate hike of two to three hours round trip from the village of Andlau.

We returned to Itterswiller one evening to eat dinner at a winstub called la Winstub Arnold that looked inviting and cozy, plus it was yellow! Before dinner, an adorable parade of vintage trucks was making its way through the village. My husband was delighted, like a kid in a candy store.

Dinner was very enjoyable as I had the most delicious jambon with mustard of my life paired with a great Gewürztraminer wine! The small, intimate Hôtel Arnold located just across the street from the winstub is surrounded by vineyards and peaceful views of the mountains. I was intrigued as the winstub staff were running back and forth between the restaurant and the hotel with bottles of champagne. It looked like a dreamy place to stay for a night or two.

With so many villages yet to discover, I’m not sure if I will ever make it back to Itterswiller. But I hope you do.

À bientôt!

Le Clos de Rohan—A Hidden Retreat

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Hidden high in the hills above the village of Rustrel lies a true Provençal oasis of tranquility. Enveloped by woods, hills, and fields of lavender, le Clos de Rohan is the Provence you are looking for. From the moment you enter the grounds, this soothing retreat will delight the senses, whisk away any stress, and calm any frazzled nerves.

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Le Clos de Rohan is an 18th-century restored farmhouse with a bed and breakfast run by the gracious, hospitable owner Françoise, whose attention to detail does not go unnoticed. There are two beautiful two-story private suites with terraces overlooking a gorgeous pool and lavender field. These suites are located in a separate connecting building to the main house and are not your typical bed and breakfast rooms but really more like small gites.

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Breakfast is a real delight, as Françoise presents a beautiful table with fine linen, quality china, and special little touches with lavender. Homemade jams, breads, croissants, fresh fruit, and honey produced from Francoise’s own bees await.

The ever gracious Françoise is available to answer any questions but never intrusive. This is a real private, secluded gem of a retreat. Located in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department on the edge of the Luberon Regional Natural Park, le Clos de Rohan has received EU Ecolabel certification as the owners are committed to sustainable development and the use of renewable energy sources.

If you can bear to leave the peace and beauty of le Clos de Rohan, the nearby villages of Banon, Simiane-la-Rotonde, and Viens are all worth a visit. Or you can just drive around aimlessly through the beautiful lavender-filled countryside to discover what you discover. Sometimes no plan is the best plan. It leaves the thrill of discovery wide open.

À bientôt!

Wine Tasting Anyone?

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It’s safe to say, I’m no expert on wine by any means. In fact, I hesitate to open my mouth and say even one word on the subject. But years ago, knowing nothing about wine, we chose Burgundy for our first trip to France based on a pastoral scene in a guidebook that just called to us. Little did we know of the complex world of wine that we were about to stumble upon.

Our first trip to Burgundy revolved around everything but wine. We thought the four-euro bottle of wine we purchased from the village épicerie was something. We thought the glass of wine we ordered at the café was something. We had no idea what was all around us right at our fingertips. Yet, we wondered, ‘What are all these signs for caveau, dégustation, and vente de vins located every two feet throughout the region?’ So innocent. But not for long.

I began to do a little research about Burgundy wine before our second trip to the region. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I discovered, unbeknownst to me, that there were Grands Crus, Premiers Crus, village wines, and wines of Bourgogne. I learned how to understand a French wine label. With newfound excitement, I was armed and ready to return.

No longer did I simply order un verre de vin rouge, but I asked to see the wine list. I was excited to try a Grand Cru, a Premier Cru, a village wine. I enjoyed comparing a Pommard to a Volnay to a Savigny-lès-Beaune and a Saint Romain to a Saint Aubin to a Meursault. I was discovering this fascinating, intricate world of Burgundian wine!

Being that we don’t speak much French, especially back then, we pondered should we now take it a step further and go into a cave for dégustation? Nervous and intimidated, we go for it and have our first tasting at Domaine Maurice Gavignet in Nuits-Saint-Georges. Another day, we rang the bell at the caveau of Michel Rebourgeon in Pommard and had a tasting.

Now that monsters have been created, do we dare take it even a step further and ring the bell of a private stone house in Pernand-Vergelesses and ask to taste the family wine? Scared and reluctant, we press the bell. An older French woman, perhaps about 80 years old, answers the door and grants our request. She escorts us down some stone steps into the family cellar where we try her wine. We purchase a few bottles and return on bicycle the next day with one of the bottles for a picnic. An older French gentleman comes up to us and gives us a thumbs up when he looks at what we are drinking on the side of a stone wall. Who knows, maybe he was the winemaker!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

314To top it all off, would you believe that we were actually invited by an English expat neighbor who had a friend who worked at the Rebourgeon winemaking facility in Pommard to go on a tour to see the process of making wine? Do you think I was smart enough to document that? No! But I remember we tried the wine for that year’s vintage, which was still undrinkable at the time. The wine was passed around from the workers to us in a communal wine glass. I figured the alcohol would kill any germs and decided just to live like the French for a moment and be free.

I still haven’t learned too much about wine but that it is a fascinating, complex art. Wine is alive. It is a piece of the land, the terroir. It truly is a gift.

À bientôt!