Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pants in France III: Alsace

We wound our way to Alsace along the twisting, mountainous Route des Vins. Nikos (Mr. Pants' father) drove. I maintained composure by digging my fingernails firmly into the vinyl of the backseat and stared wide-eyed at the views of the steep drop-off and tiny, church-steepled villages with names that sounded like Snuffleheim and Fluffernutten.   

We stayed overnight in the home of the stinkiest cheese (Munster) and had a room across from the church where storks were nesting amidst the turrets.  We ate like portly kings.  Alsace is all cream, white wine, dumplings, meat, and decadent goodness. We shaved years off our lives dining on cheese dumplings in a cream sauce WITH bacon, below.

We made it to Strasbourg, and its impressive, rosy-stoned cathedral.  Winding streets spiral out from the cathedral, from whose heights you can see copper-topped roofs of other churches, and steep-slanted roofs of houses with tiny windows.

Sadly, this picture is blurry (blame it on the Cremant D'Alsace) but I'm showing it anyway. This large copper pot was completely misshapen, beat up, and well worn. We had no idea the portions would be so large. OH well. 

Highlights:  Strasbourg's gorgeous cathedral, stinky cheese and insanely cute villages in Alsace. Also, storks! 

Disappointments: In Alsace: If you can have too much cream, then I guess, that MIGHT be a disappointment to some. We didn't stay quite long enough to explore more of the region.

Mr. Pants: Digging greedy spoonfuls of jam out of the tourist jam store samples, stomping around saying "I want Kugelhopf"(an Alsatian cake) in a mock Alsatian manner and enjoying the ridiculously quaint buildings and the cheesy dumplings. With bacon. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011


We zoomed south from Paris on the TGV to a sun-and-wine-soaked tour of languid Provence, (Avignon, Arles, Vaison la Romaine) where we ate yet more ice cream.  Strawberry, raspberry, cassis and lavender were popular flavors.  

Mr Pants' little sister— born and raised in France, tagged along. She's in her revolutionary phase. I admit I'd zone out when they'd start arguing in French about Marxism. But hey, I didn't mind when I could enjoy this crispy-skinned, tender cod with asparagus mousse, because I'm just so bourgeois.

In Vaison la Romaine, our hotel was the wonderfully creaky Hostellerie Beffroi, full of wood beams and tile floors. This was one relaxed, remarkable town full of Roman ruins, a Roman bridge built in the 1st century AD, and beautiful winding stone streets. This was the view from our window.  The old bell tower still works. Even at 6 am.  

I found here, that Patricia Wells recommended some local restaurants such as Brin D'Olivier,  and La Baguette, (for vietnamese, right next to the roman ruins), and these were (not surprisingly) excellent choices. 

This was an "appetizer" of Mediterranean delights, at the tiny restaurant Le Bonheur Suit Son Cour, including mozzarella, tomatoes three ways, roasted peppers and hummus with nutty bread.  The mozzarella, served in small cups, was somewhere between a dense mozzarella ball and a foam, and called "clouds" by our waiter.  

Cheese! (waving my fists in an excited little dance). 

And nougat! Which makes Mr. Pants' voice go all high and girly like a six-year-old who REALLY wants some nougat. 

Provencal towns have ancient main squares, where locals take their evening stroll, children chase each other, people sit and drink Pastis (anise-flavored liqueur) at dusk and the men watch the women walk by and the women watch the men watching them. 

Highlights:  The whole town of Vaison la Romaine; The history- the Roman ruins and arenas scattered throughout Provence. Ice cream. 

Disappointments:  Not staying longer, like 6 months to a year.  

Mr. Pants: "This is awesome!" and "I'm SO relaxed" except when arguing with his sister.