The journey of a thousand miles begins with...the perfect pair of shoes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Adventures in Alsace: Food, wine and ADAC Angels

Are you familiar with Alsace? Maybe? It's a region of France that has been German several times during numerous wars. It is now firmly in the French hands, unless, you know, the Germans get antsy again. I doubt that will happen though. They have McDonald's and once McD's rolls in, why would you fight? Unless you hear they are shutting down, and then, well, it's on.
I love the Alsace region. It's (obviously) on the French/German border and is a unique blend of both cultures. It's German with a French twist (not the hair do) and French with a German flavor. My friend A and I ran away on President's Day and spent the day in Strasbourg, France. When I say "ran away" I mean that we left our kids with their fathers, hopped in the car and drove off quickly giggling like teenagers before the men realized what was going on. Okay, I'm kidding (sort of). We told the guys where we were going. Then we ran away. Gigggling.
I took about a hundred or so photos, but today we'll focus on food. And wine. And ADAC Angels. Don't know what that is? We'll get there and you'll see why I love them so much.

I'll post about the architecture another day, but I can't just tell you I went to Strasbourg without showing you something of the city. This is crossing the river. GOR. GEOUS.

All right, enough of that. Let's get on to the important stuff. Food. We passed by so many bakeries and confectioneries we practically gained weight by osmosis. Look at this! Almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

Mmmmmm. Yes, please!

After all that, we HAD to eat some lunch. We wandered around the tiny streets behind the cathedral until we found my favorite place. Believe me, it's not easy to find, but I was determined! We wandered down the Rue des Freres, until we came to a tiny little alleyway with a blue door at the bend in the alley. I had not been here since 2004, but I KNEW when I saw that blue door, I had found what I was looking for: Crep Mili!

When you walk in, you descend into what was once a 17th c cellar. How cool is this?

Here's the bar and the front room. We ate in the middle room. I was so excited (and hungry) I forgot to take photos of that.

We had the most delicious gallettes you could ever imagine. A gallette is a savory crepe. It's a really thin buckwheat pancake filled with all sorts of Frenchy goodness. A and I both had the Gallette Provencale, which had several different types of cheese, ratatouille, and various herbs and spices wrapped in the pancake. It was so good I almost wept. Sadly, the gallettes are HUGE (we really should have split one) and we were too full to order any of the crepes. Maybe next time!
We wandered around the city for a while (to work off that gallette) and decided to come home. Before we did though, A wanted to stop at a grocer to pick up a few things. Mostly good French wine and stinky cheese. Seriously, the cheese smelled so bad we had to put it in the trunk because it over powered the interior of the car. She said it tasted good though.

Ever wondered what a French grocery store looked like? Well, here's a peek!

Know what this looooooong counter offers? CHEESE!

Europeans are very serious about their cheese. Especially the French. Look at all of this! It smelled horrible, BTW. Too much stinky cheese.

Something else they're quite fond of? Wine. Lots and lots of wine. Keep in mind, this is a really small store compared to what we have in the States. If you've been to a Trader Joe's, it's about that size, maybe slightly smaller.

Can you see the price of the wine? Euro 4,45. That's about $6. And look at those pretty bottles!

There's A looking for the perfect bottle from the Bordeaux region. We both came home with a few bottles. You can get French wine in Germany of course, but they had a much larger selection and it was less expensive.

Let's walk around the corner. Fresh seafood! Some of it still alive! Look in the tanks!

The fishmonger (they have a fishmonger!) assured me the shrimp were flown in that morning. Did I believe him? Not really, but I bought M and Indy a kilo and brought them home. They were sooooo excited. M said they tasted really fresh. Flown in that morning fresh he wasn't sure, but still far better than the frozen shrimp he usually gets.

So, then we hopped in M's car and headed home after a long day of shopping, eating and walking. We were just on the French/German border when a car decided he didn't care if I was on the priority road and whipped out in front of me. Not familiar with a priority road? You hear lots of people talking about driving on the Autobahns, but rarely does anyone talk about driving in the towns. They have crazy laws over here. A priority road means just that. Whoever is on that road (and they are clearly marked) has priority over anyone coming onto the road. Even if it makes a twist or a turn and it makes absolutely no sense for it to actually BE a priority road, the person already on the road still has priority! This other driver though didn't care and barreled onto the road almost taking out the passenger front quarter panel of M's cute (still new) little Passat. I swerved to keep from getting hit (and hey, A was on that side, she could have gotten hurt!). In swerving, I clipped the edge of a curb. The Passat is cute, zippy and small. Small cars have small tires. Small tires that can't take hitting even a small curb at 25mph and burst. As soon as I hit the curb we heard a pop and I knew what happened. Had we been driving my beloved Ulrika, we probably wouldn't even have felt the curb. I pulled over, heart pounding and got out. Here's what I saw:
There is a restaurant where I pulled over and a man came out, looked at my tire and began talking to us in rapid fire French. He spoke a little English, though it was so heavily accented I couldn't understand it any better than French. My cell had not switched back over to Deutsche Telekom, and I couldn't figure out how to use it (I really need to figure that out) so I looked around and realized we were right next a Hotel Garni. Hurrah!

The receptionist spoke about 10 different languages (including English!) and offered to call ADAC for me. ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club) is similar to AAA in the States, but way better (and cheaper). Fortunately, I'm an ADAC member, so when I need them, I just call from anywhere (once I figure out how to work my phone in another country), even in the US, and they will take care of me. If it's just a break down, they'll send an ADAC Yellow Angel out to see if they can fix you up. A Yellow Angel is basically a mobile mechanic shop. They patrol the autobahns and help stranded motorists. Angels indeed!

We waited in the hotel lobby and soon saw the bright yellow angel pull up by M's car. The angel driver got out, looked at the tire, told us it was "kaput" (which I kind of already knew), pulled out an industrial jack, lifted the car and had the spare on in about 5 minutes. He told me to be careful, not to go over 100kph (about 63mph) and wished me a pleasant journey. I did not have to pay because I'm a member! AWESOME! Ich liebe ADAC! (I love ADAC!)

So ended our day in Strasbourg. I have many more pics to show you of the beautiful city iself, but you'll have to come back for that.


Allison said...

that is excellent! we are ADAC members too..luckily we haven't had to call them, but if we ever do I hope they are as speedy and friendly as yours!

Ells said...

aaaah, ADAC! They are angels! SO much faithful rescuing for just 88 Euros per year. :) Or something like that.

And I loved the pictures from the French grocery. We miss the cheese selection something fierce. Do you like the German 'snack cheese' that is long and thin and comes in a paper wrapper? I used to pack that up with pesto from Aldi, sliced veggies, some naan brot, camembert, jam, and rote-schorle, and then take my husband on a 'gourmet picnic' by the river. We loved living in Germany! So much fun to read your post and remember. :) Thanks!

Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

What a fabulous post. I was in Germany about 20 yrs. ago and only saw all the touristy things. This was so interesting to see the grocery stores and hear about the roads. So interesting. I really enjoyed it. Hugs, Marty

Monica said...

My husband used to live in Germany. He has always wanted to go back for a visit. I was never interested in going. But after seeing your pics, I want to now! Hey, I'm all about good food and wine. LOL. Is it sad that is what it takes to make me want to visit?

Hccm said...

Today is a very big day in the Where’s Wenda? Contest. I am visiting all of the SITS followers. Can I do it? There are around 1000 followers. Oh my! Better grab my cup of coffee and get on my way. Be sure to visit Hot Chocolate Caramel Mocha and Three Bay B Chicks as part of your contest entry. -Wenda

Karen M. Peterson said...

I love Strasbourg! I was in France a few years ago as part of a very short study abroad summer trip. Three weeks. We started in Strasbourg, and as much as I loved Paris, I preferred our first stop.

I like how Strasbourg is a major city but still manages to keep a bit of the small town feel. It doesn't feel overly touristy. It's beautiful, it's clean. And the people are actually pretty nice, even to Americans.

Looking at your pictures makes me really want to go back!

Anonymous said...

I love Alsace! My husband and I did a driving tour through the forests and small towns around there a few years ago. It was fantastic. So much good food and WINE! We're looking forward to going back again soon.

ADAC has totally been a lifesaver for us before as well. We were on our way back from Italy in a rented RV and ALL the lights on the back of it went out. Not safe in the least. Thankfully they came out and rigged it so we could get home and give that thing back! Isn't it amazing how quickly they can fix things?!

christinamg said...

The river shot is really nice. The bread and pastries don't look too bad either! ;-) Yummo.

Rue said...

Hey!! You were in my ancestor's country! I'm 1/4 Alsatian (German not French). Look up the last name Zinsmeyer in the phonebook there and they're my grandfather's relatives... every one of them :)

The food looked glorious! I'm glad you weren't hurt in the accident. How scary!!


Mike B said...

We already have a few fave spots in Strasbourg, but we are going to have to add Crepe Mili to the list. What grocer is that? We always end up at Cora out of shear laziness ... Cora is OK, but that place looks nice.

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