On Tuesday we drove the Wine Route into Riquewihr. By this time we had figured out where to pull off the road to get some nice views without getting rear-ended by a speeding tractor or tourist with a bit too much reisling under his belt.
Riquewihr is a beautifully preserved 15th century town surrounded by vine-covered slopes. Although the main street was already getting crowded by tourists at 10 in the morning, there were plenty of quiet back streets for walking.
Jean-Paul was in town, and had invited us to drop by to see the building he's in the process of renovating. "Renovating" seems too mild a word for what he's doing, which is rebuilding a 15th century winemaker's house into modern luxury apartments while keeping as much of the past intact as possible. The house is built into the old ramparts, so the back windows will overlook the vineyards; and the front will have traditional glassed-in balconies overlooking something very rare in town--a garden. We picked our way through the construction rubble to peer at the huge old wine press in the basement, then followed Jean-Paul as he showed us the massive old beams, original carpenter's marks in woodwork, the new stairs, and how the apartments will be configured. An interesting aspect they've recovered was the old "peeping window" at the corner, where the occupants could check out who was coming or going on the street below. I tell you, I want the apartment on the top floor which will have glassed-in views onto the rooftops and vineyards beyond.
Jean-Paul also showed us an apartment he manages, an unbelievably lovely apartment with original Renaissance painted ceiling. Luxurious furnishings and artwork, a super kitchen--sign me up.By the way, the outside wall houses I shot above also happen to be his other apartments. You can check out the website here: http://i-love-riquewihr.com/
We walked around a bit more, finding some fun details.
The three heads at the top were the original owners, three women.
We joined Jean-Paul and Martine for lunch in a four-table restaurant on rue des Ramparts, Pierrot le Fou. Owned by an artist/chef/character who opens when he feels like it and serves what he wants. We had a "simple little lunch" of perfect truffle omlets and a beautiful dessert of grilled tropical fruits and coconut ice cream. If you're open to surprises, give him a call (he speaks excellent English, and lived in the US for a while) to see if he feels like cooking. 06 82 14 40 58.
We did some winetasting in cool cellars (it was above 90 by now), and then got back onto the wine route. We stopped in little Bergheim, and followed a sign pointing us toward the ramparts. We walked on the rapmarts all around the town, peering into people's back gardens and finding the remaining watch towers. The town is very charming, and seems to be off the tourist radar. There are a few good looking restaurants to try, too.
We briefly stopped in Selestat, a busy market town. There's not much for the tourist there, but we did find the synagogue. Alsace had the largest Jewish community in France before the Holocaust.
We did some resting and reading at home, and then headed up to a ferme-auberge above Liepvre for dinner. I'm very glad we didn't meet another car on the road, as there was room for only one, with the required steep drop off one side. Dinner was country-style, with a lot of emphasis on pig. Sausages, smoked pig, roasted pig, ground pig. (it's pretty ironic to have this photo under that of the shul) I loved this pate in croute, and that was enough piggie for me.