Trip Start Jun 13, 2007
1Trip End Jun 20, 2007
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Our original plan had us flying from Vancouver to Montreal and then catching the evening flight to Paris. A quick check of the flights on the morning of our departure revealed that the Paris flights were pretty heavily booked and our chances of getting a seat were not looking good
We arrived in Frankfurt somewhat weary after the nine and a half hour flight but eager to get to our accommodations in France. Lufthansa offers a coach service direct from Frankfurt airport to Strasbourg so shortly after our arrival in Frankfurt, we were on a luxury coach for the 2 hour trip to Strasbourg. One of my favourite things about traveling in Europe is seeing the tremendous variety of cars that are available over there. Of course it was the many Citroens, Peugeots and Renaults that caught my eye. While Janet dozed, I was too wrapped up in car spotting to get much sleep. I was also amused by the antics of the French driver of the coach who in true Gallic fashion spared no insult for those that inadvertently impeded his speedy progress. I have added a few new words to my driving vocabulary I think. I'm not exactly sure what he was muttering under his breath about the slowpokes that got in the way, but I don't think it was particularly complimentary.
Early afternoon saw us deposited in front of the Strasbourg Gare where we were to catch a train to Colmar in the southern Alsace region. It was just a short 30 minute trip on an older but very smooth and speedy SNCF train
Our rental was a dazzling yellow Peugeot 107. This car shares a platform with the Citroen C1 and the Toyota Aygo. These 3 cars are almost identical except for the badging and are produced as a joint venture between PSA (Citroen / Peugeot) and Toyota and are manufactured in the Czech Republic. The car was quite nice but was a base model and had little in the way of creature comforts. It was good basic transportation and used a very modest amount of fuel which at European fuel prices is good thing, but I found the 1 litre, 3 cylinder engine to be a little harsh and the interior materials seemed a little cheap. The most irritating shortcoming was the tiny knobs on the window winder handles. For some reason they projected out from the handle only about 3/16 of an inch. They were the most wafer thin knobs I have ever seen requiring a precise vice like grip with one's fingertips in order to operate the windows. Not sure what Jacques and Pierre were thinking when they engineered those little babies. That said it was fun to drive on the twisty French back roads with its 5 speed manual gearbox and excellent steering and brakes.
We had booked a gite in the small town of Riquewihr which is about 15 km from Colmar and after the short drive, we were graciously welcomed by our hosts Valerie and Christophe Horn who own La Fleur de Vigne
Riquewihr is a beautiful village nestled between the Ballon de Vosges hills and the vineyards of the Rhine Valley. It is recognized as one of the most beautiful villages in France and certainly lived up to that reputation. It is surrounded on 3 sides by the vineyards belonging to the village vignerons (winemakers) and the cool forested hills of the Vosges to the west. It has an excellent selection of restaurants, winestubs and cafes and has numerous narrow cobbled lanes which are a joy to walk through and explore. Most of the villagers are also families of winemakers and have lived in the village and cultivated the local vines for generations. Our hosts Valerie and Christophe also have a wine cave under the house (as do most of the old houses) and produce a tantalizing array of fine riesling wines. They were happy to give us a tour of the wine cellar and a private tasting of some of their wines. If you are planning a trip to France consider visiting this beautiful town and staying at La Fleur de Vigne. For more information on the accommodation go to: http://www.gite-alsace-riquewihr.com/
For more information on the town of Riquewihr go to: http://www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/client/index.php?idsite =1&lang=EN
The nearby towns of Kaysersberg, Kientzheim, Ribeauvillé and Zellenberg also provide nearly endless opportunities for exploration, wine tasting and great food. Ahhhhh the French really have this figured out. For the ladies in the group, there are numerous shops that sell local pottery and a short distance up the road behind Ribeauvillé, we stumbled across the small Beauvillé factory that is one of the last places that still uses wood blocks in the printing of fabrics. Janet really enjoyed their quite extensive shop that sold all manner of linens and printed cloths of the most exquisite quality. I sat outside and enjoyed the sunshine and watched for Citroens going past on the road while she gave the credit card a good workout in the store. Go to:
http://www.french-brand.com/table-linen/beauville/ for more information
Thursday was the appointed day to go to Mulhouse to visit the Musee Nationale de L'Automobile - Schlumpf Collection. After arriving on the Tuesday and spending a leisurely Wednesday in Riquewihr recovering from our trip, we were sufficiently rested to tackle the Museum by Thursday. If you go, consider approaching Mulhouse from the south as we did and parking at the Université and taking the tram into town to get to the museum. It is much less stressful than trying to navigate through the town and find the museum in the car and the tram stops right outside the museum. The tram is a spotless new light rail transit system that runs along rails that are embedded in grass boulevards that are immaculately manicured. And it is cheap! We did the P+ Tram which means you can park all day in a secure parking lot at the University, take the tram both ways and the total for both of us was just 2 Euro. That's about $2.25 USD. You would spend more on gas driving all the way to the Museum!
As we approached the museum, I had butterflies in my stomach. Would it live up to my expectations? Well believe me it did. This is a place that every car enthusiast should visit sometime in their life. To be in the presence of the infamous Bugatti Royale Napoleon Coupe has everyone speaking in hushed and reverent toneshttp://www.collection-schlumpf.com/en/schlumpf/ for more information.
While we had been researching our trip, Janet had also found another museum for us to visit. (You gotta love a woman that searches out Citroen Museums for us to visit on our 25th Anniversary trip). The 2CV Club of Alsace has a museum in the region as well which was open only on Saturdays
On the way to the museum we decided to take a slight detour and visit the 12th century castle on the hilltop at Haut Koenigsbourg. This castle is nothing short of amazing and the restoration which dates from the 20th century is very impressive. You can rent a little CD player audio guide which fills you in on the many details of the castle, and what life was like there back in the 1600's. On a clear day, the castle has a commanding view of the Rhine Valley and if conditions are right, you can see all the way to Germany and Switzerland. A truly amazing piece of history and well worth the slight detour and the time spent therehttp://www.haut-koenigsbourg.net/
Upon reaching the town of Schirmeck, take the D392 in the direction of Donon. This is a beautiful road that winds up into the hills of the Foret du Donon overlooking the Rhine valley. At this point we became unsure of whether we were really going the right way as it seems an unlikely place for a Museum. Look for an old run down mill with a smokestack set amongst the trees on your left and there you will find this gem of a museum. Run by the 2CV Club Alsace, this little museum is devoted entirely to the 2CV and its many derivatives, as well as a strange assortment of modified vehicles that various people have donated to the museum. The building itself is a crumbling 17th century mill that unfortunately is fast becoming an unsuitable home for many of these cars. There are roof leaks and the lack of a security system make this a potential target for thieves and vandals. On one occasion the staff returned to the Museum to find one of the cars had had its entire drivetrain removed by some uncaring individuals
In another part of the building lies the real treasure for the 2CV restorer. The most incredible stash of used 2CV parts that you are likely to find anywhere. Heaven on earth
While there I also purchased some items from their shop which had a good selection of T-shirts and other little goodies. It's a good thing that we only take hand carry luggage when we travel as this limits me to how much stuff I can accumulate while on holiday. Otherwise I would have bought an even bigger stash of stuff. We spent a couple of hours there just kind of hanging about; looking at the cars and talking with Pascal who actually spent a year in Moscow, Idaho so he has an excellent command of the English language
Unfortunately, the owner of the old building that they are currently in recently passed away and it has now become an area of dispute for the surviving family members. This means a somewhat uncertain future of the museum at this location. If you have the chance, see it now while it is still there as they may be forced to move elsewhere at some point in the not too distant future. Go to: http://musee2cv.free.fr/ to find out more.
Driving back to Riquewihr after our visit to the museum it was fast approaching dinner time
We spent the remaining days of the trip just soaking up the local culture, the wine and the outstanding food, which included our 25th anniversary dinner at a local restaurant. Dieters beware, this trip is murder if you are trying to watch your weight. We were both dreading the trip back to Paris where we would be spending the last night before trying to get on a flight back to Canada early the following morning. We just didn't want to face that big city and all the noise and commotion. We dropped our lemon yellow Peugeot off at the rental agency and then caught the train to Strasbourg and then the TGV back to Paris. If you have never experienced the pride of the French rail system, the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) you really should. It is very smooth and very FAST. The countryside just flies by and a polite announcement is made when it reaches its cruising speed of 320 km/hr
Paris is full of very expensive and exclusive automobiles, big Mercedes and 7 and 8 series BMW's being pretty much the norm. But the C6 has the exclusivity and the cache that others somehow just don't have. It is an elegant and understated piece of automotive art, especially when viewed at night under the bright lights of Paris. All the ones that I saw were in black which only added to the dramatic effect. If I win the lottery..........
Early next morning we took the taxi back to Charles De Gaulle Airport after the usual sleepless night in a noisy and cramped Paris hotel room
Now that reality has set back in, we look back upon this trip as undoubtedly the best we have ever taken to France. The food, wine, accommodation were all just great and as always in the Citroen world, it is the people that you meet along the way that are the real reward. If you are considering a trip to France for your fix of French cars, we can highly recommend the Alsace region. Hmmm, wonder how busy the flights are in the fall, maybe I'll just go online and check........