Tuesday, September 30, 2014


An article popped up in the paper this morning -- about the state of being happy. Research shows that some people have a very real fear of happiness -- either because they feel  they cannot reach that state of bliss, or that they cannot sustain it because, you know, it always will end with a crash. I understand that because this perfectly describes me as a kid (and, to an extent as I reached adulthood). I worried about the crash that surely would wipe the last bit of joy out of a day.

The researchers suggest that maintaining a constant state of giddy happiness is, in fact, problematic. (What a surprise.) But, too, equally problematic is the fear of allowing yourself to feel happy. You could say that the optimal state to aim for is happiness at a moderate level.

Well now, good point! What I find interesting though, is the term itself: "happy." That word has no good translation in Polish. The best that my native language offers is "szczesliwa" -- which, to me, is more about feeling yourself to be blessed with good fortune and pleased with the state of life. And I think that's a valuable distinction. "Happy" is just such a loaded (in all the wrong ways) term. Happy connotes wearing a wide silly grin on your face. It implies a giddiness, a child-like desire to jump up and down with delight. It really is an odd word, or at least an odd state to aspire to.

Far more useful, I think, is the term "content." I love that word! It means at peace. It means that you are able to find pleasure: you're not struggling to attain it. You're satisfied with the turn of the road, despite the dips and breaks. You think of life and you smile, but you're not doubling over from a belly laugh.

So when I ended last night's post with the words -- I am happy with the piece of news I received, that's one thing. But a far better way to describe the entire evening that evolved is to say that I was at peace.

This little digression is not unrelated to my morning on this supposedly wet day in Alsace -- notably my last day here, as I leave tomorrow. I went out at a modestly early hour -- at 8:30 -- in search of a breakfast treat to bring back to my apartment. There had been rain at night. The cobbled street was still shiny from wetness. Quite lovely to see at this gentle morning hour.





Riquewihr really starts coming alive right at around 9. Not yet with tourists. This is the time when deliveries are made. Suddenly, the main street is looking like this:


 But about that morning breakfast treat. Yesterday's pain au chocolat was fine, but I have to admit -- the pastries at the Salon du The (of my first morning here) were better. And if you buy a croissant as a take-out, it's only 1.1 Euro.

So I go inside the Salon-Patisserie and as I complete the purchase, I ask Madame why they have a sign in the window (which I just noticed the day after I was told not to photograph the pastries) saying "no photos." I mean, if the best Parisian pastry shops, ones that are packed solid with waiting customers, don't mind your camera, why do they mind here in Riquewihr? I could not imagine the reason, so I ask.

Madame shrugs her shoulders. I really do not know. It's not me, it's the owners. Me, I am "decontracte" (laid back). I don't care about the sign and I never tell people to put away their cameras. I have a "do what pleases you" attitude.

Mystery solved. Somewhere in there, the owner developed a grudge against the camera. And the delighted tourist is told (at least by some of the clerks) to reign it in and put it away. Pop! Your bubble of happiness is burst. Unless you're simply content with the world and yourself in it and then you just smile, shrug and move on.

My breakfast at home is delicious. An almond croissant, a cup of milky espresso.


Now what? The forecast calls for rain, with a 90% certainty.

I pace the main street for a little bit. French school children have arrived and their youthfulness really sparks most everything around us. These two girls are all smiles at the cuteness of a dog -- a visiting dog from Germany -- who carries a purchased souvenir, the sold everywhere small stuffed stork.


It's not raining now. I can't resist a hike. I've walked the vineyards for two days now. How about the forest to the west of us? Up the mountainside?


Just as I enter the forest -- it's a mix of chestnuts, of all things and tall pines -- I encounter two men coming out of it. They carry baskets of mushrooms and chestnuts.


It's after rain -- the best time for mushroom picking. I notice the chanterelles and I am reminded of my own mushroom picking days so many decades ago! Can I still do it? Do I have that intuitive eye for the clumps of the orange variety? My sister and I used to be so good at it (in the forest by my grandparents' house in Poland)!

I'm not as lucky now, or maybe the two gentlemen picked the clumps close to the path and left nothing behind, but I do find a few odd varieties and it is enough. There is some satisfaction in merely poking around for mushrooms after the rain.


After an hour of following the path up the mountain, I turn back. It's too quiet up high in the forest and in places, not much light comes through the thicket. When I'm alone, open spaces feel gentler on the soul. Too, I'm not convinced it wont rain.

I amble around the perimeters of  Riquewihr, choosing the road that climbs between rows of vines.


It's not possible to tire of the views toward the village!


I encounter a German couple with their boxer girl. They see another dog on the loose and they immediately put a leash on their own. The loose girl is local.


Her owner is watching from the sidelines.


The loose girl comes up to sniff the German girl, they circle each other and engage in a mild growling banter. Madame shakes her head. My girl is gentle. They should release their dog so these two can work it out. It's not good to stand between them.

The dogs look like they could be twins. Or mother and daughter.

I watch this scene and I think how well the dogs know the rules of their own game, regardless of the nationalities of the owners. Sure, French dogs tend to have good table manners (I'm a little bit joking here, though not really), but put them in the field with their own kind and their language becomes that of dog.

A few more paces, just a few more! It's so beautiful here!


And then I'm back in my apartment again. I munch on cheese and tomato, I pack my suitcase. I'll be leaving it in Paris tomorrow and immediately flying out to Warsaw. I don't need more than a day pack for my three nights in Poland. I still have half a week of travel before me and yet I already feel like I've started the return.

As I settle in to do some late afternoon work on the blog post and, too, on polishing up the final draft of my book project, an email pops into my box. It's from Jean-Paul -- my host here, in Riquewihr. He caught sight of Ocean and, being supremely good at his hosting business, he suggests we grab a glass of wine in town.

I am grateful for this chance to meet him, since I think he and his wife are probably up there in the top 1% of thoughtful landlords who spare no effort to preserve quality and history of the buildings they renovate, at the same time that they create spaces that are without doubt superbly comfortable for guests. At reasonable prices.

I am fascinated by his account of how they took a crumbling structure and turned it into what it is today.


I think about people who put passion into their work. How is it that they maintain the enthusiasm for something that can be unnerving and stressful? Jean-Paul says that stress, anxiety -- they drive creativity. If that's true, then is it good to keep a modicum of stress burning somewhere subliminally within you?

I suppose much as I have sought to erase stress from my everyday, there will always be a thimbleful of it left within me. Ed is nearly 100% stress free. I'm not. But I would relinquish that bit of creativity within, to get as close to 100% as I can. (Honestly, it will never be 100: I wont, for example, eliminate my hyper movements all over the planet and these do, oftentimes, invite stress.)

We drink a wonderful Riesling from a small wine house run by a woman. I'm hearing more about these vintners now: women, in a world that has for a long time been dominated by men.

Evening comes early now, on the last day of September. The skies are clearing, the moon is out.


I can't retreat just yet!  I have one more meal in Alsace!

I go to La Grappe d'Or. It's a darn good place. I know, I hit four good ones in a row! How often does that happen?!
Jean-Paul tells me that Alsace has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin starred kitchens. I'm not eating at Michelin starred places and still, I see the quality in even these "lesser" kitchens. How is it that Alsace is so... delicious? He tells me that in a place like Riquewihr, they watch each other closely. Half of the places don't care - they cater to those who just want to drink and eat typical anything. But the other ones -- they do care. Very much.

I am filling myself with foods I don't ever think about back home. I've eaten my way through everyone's supply of duck liver, I've ordered meats, beef tonight -- foods that I avoid back home are my friends now.

The restaurant is packed. And next to me, there is a threesome that again does not understand that I am completely on their language plain. They are Polish. And they are dismal. I'm not even looking for "happy" here, I'm just looking for "okay."

They are not okay. At one point the woman chastises her partner (assume husband) -- nie krzyc, nie krzyc! (dont shout!). But he wasn't shouting. She just didn't like what he was saying. It spiraled downhill from there.

Me, I will order anything with mushrooms tonight. I am all about mushrooms! And still, I am distracted by the Poles. I want to go up to them and say -- excuse me, but what language are you speaking? It sounds so... poetic! But I stay silent. I don't want to appear like I'm mocking their Polishness. God knows, you rarely encounter Poles in French eateries.

I look around at the other tables. A young couple has just claimed the only free space. They ask if there is a menu in English. The proprietor tells them that there are translations on the main menu. They ask -- how about Swedish, do you have a menu in Swedish?

People are funny in all their yearnings and longings. Who can blame them... Precious days -- you want them to be perfect. And for some, that means having a menu in Swedish.

Tomorrow morning I'm off. Stay patient! Internet issues are always a big question mark until I settle into my new place. Which in this case is going to be my sister's home.

I leave you with my dessert:  a heavenly meringue with ice-cream and forest berries.


Monday, September 29, 2014

a new week

It's just after noon and I am out in the vineyards, doing the "big walk," the reasonably well marked trail that weaves its way through the Grand Cru vineyards -- the prized grapes that go into the best wines of the region. It's about a ten mile meandering trail and it'll take me four hours to do it because of the pauses and because I will get lost more often than I care to admit.

But right now it's early on in my hike and I have this one thought that keeps nagging at me -- why are so many people so negative in their thinking? I do understand that when you're thrown some extraordinary punches, your spirits falter. Not run of the mill stuff, but tough things: loss of love, loss of loved one, loss of health, loss of work -- loss produces an immediate sinking of your gut. It's hard to grin through it all.

But this isn't what puzzles me. It's when you can't get through a normal day without punching at someone or something. Punching hard. And grimacing. That's when I really wonder: why?

It's a serious question, brought on just in part by something quite ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Something that happened just today. Here's the story:

 As I was rounding a curve of the "big walk," I picked up the sound of voices out there in the rows of vines. I'm drawn to this act of manual grape picking -- it's tough work and it is hugely important to the success of this year's harvest and so where at all possible, I pause to watch.




But the noises aren't coming just from the pickers. A man and a woman (if I understand it correctly, they are not husband and wife -- they just work together) are setting a table and making a small fire at the side to warm some foods.


I pause to watch.
You're getting lunch ready? -- I say this rather unnecessarily, as it's so obvious that that's exactly what they're doing.
Yes, yes, they're about to break with picking.
How many pickers do you have?
Today, ten. So we have a good meal for them
. She sees me eying the table. Yes, with wine! And she laughs.

Beautiful weather, I comment. Because it is.
Oh, absolutely! This is the first time that we have had nothing but good weather for the entire harvest.
I do hear that there will be showers tomorrow...
But we will be done today! And she is buoyant now, smiling the biggest smile yet.

And he joins her now, and he laughs as well. And I mumble some comment about how nice it all looks (and it does -- the pretty table cloth, the sausage, cheese, the pot boiling away to the side).
As he uncorks the bottle that stands on the table, he says -- here, let me pour you a bit of wine!
And I accept, because it is such a spontaneous and friendly gesture and all the while, these two, they're laughing and smiling and having such a wonderful time of it!


I thank them and tell them that I want a picture of their happiness and so he hugs her and laughs that this may look bad to the wife and we all laugh and then they ask me to stay and eat something, but I decline. I've intruded enough. I've already taken something that is so very special -- a bit of their happiness with me, for the rest of my day.


So this is the scene that raises within me the question of -- why not choose this route for yourself? Doesn't it feel better to be so full of smiles and good will?

The day surely has the good weather for me yet again. Yes, tomorrow I am finally destined to get rain. I look forward to it! It's been unreal, this magic run of beautiful days. I can take some wetness!

But today is warm and spectacular!

I go to a bakery to the side of the village to pick up something for breakfast. A sort of ordinary looking pain au chocolat.

So, breakfast at home:


Oh, the pleasure of trivial morning routines! After this simple but lovely meal, I take a walk through the quiet morning streets...




... and make a trip to the post office.
How much is a stamp for a card to the US?
85 centimes.
Are you sure that's enough? He looks at me curiously. I rush to explain: I was just in Italy. There, it costs two Euros for a post card stamp!
He is shocked. I think -- how strange it is... one currency, different calculations.

Alright. Now I begin my "big walk."

The map of this circuit is a bit on the rough side. Still, you'd think that it would be impossible to get lost in this vast expanse of space where you can see for miles in each direction.

(those mountains are in Germany)


But I do lose my bearings. I'm supposed to walk through 4 different villages, in the order that they present themselves on the map: Bennwihr, Mittelwihr, Beblenheim and Zellenberg. How hard can this be?

Too many paths, too many turn offs, too many opportunities to take the wrong track. I should be in Bennwihr, instead I am in Mittelwihr, walking in exactly the opposite direction.

Never mind. Who could even tell. Bennwihr and Mittelwihr share something beyond the similarity of being a "wihr" (which I believe is the Alsatian pronunciation of the German word for hamlet). They're both new villages, having suffered complete destruction during World War II (a fate that obviously escaped the buildings of Riquewihr, where I'm staying).

So I'm in one, thinking I'm in the other and walking backwards rather than forwards, but it is all so fine, so very sublime and in the end, all roads will loop me back to my village (there, in the distance!) at the foot of the Vosges mountains.


After the confusing two hamlets, I come (without any trouble!) into Beblenheim.


The village is in full speed ahead mode. Tractors pulling carts full of grapes pass me many times:



And here, I have a chance to do something I've actually not sought out during this trip: I am standing before a winery and the gates are open and the tractors are coming in, going out and so I, too go in and make my way to where the grapes are being unloaded. The winery is a village cooperative, with a number of farmers contributing their grapes here. The operators of the machinery are quite amused by the appearance of this odd person with the yellow backpack and they encourage me to come in and look around. 

 I watch them greet each farmer and turn on the machines that grind the grapes as they are poured in from the trucks or plastic containers.


If you've never seen this moment when food from the field is transformed into the first stage of something that will eventually sit on your table, you're missing something special. Here, the air is thick with the smell of grape juice. The men stand around and survey and comment on the grapes that are trucked in. There is a special schedule as to who delivers when and what grape variety, so that you know whose juice is being pressed and moved to the enormous vats.

It's all so intense! This, crowning glory, the livelihood of the region -- it's all now finally away from the threat of bad weather, blight, fungus, mildew -- it's over and done with. Time to think about the next year of grape production.

I am as impressed and cheered by all this as if they were my own grapes, my own precious cargo.

After watching a few growers process their crop, I move on. I have one more village to get to and this one is on top of a small summit. It's the one that you'll have seen the morning I got up for the sunrise: Zellenberg.


There, too, the grape pressing is taking place only in a much smaller establishment.



I watch this too and there is another photographer here as well, only with lots and lots of expensive equipment and he shoos me out of his range so that he can get that good shot and the grape grower and winemaker  laugh and one of them shakes his wrist as in saying -- he's important stuff!  And I smile too and let the pro have his good photo shots.

And from here it's just a short (but oh so beautiful) hike to Riquewihr.





And I am so hungry! A morning pain au chocolat is no preparation for a day of hiking. At home, I open a bag of sauerkraut and lardons -- they sell these packs in the grocery store, all ready to heat and eat -- and I think it probably isn't the most subtle of tastes, but so very good after a day in the Aslatian vineyards.


In the evening, I walk just around the corner...


...to the Brendl Stub for dinner. There is a trend in France for famous chefs (in this case the Michelin starred guy here) to open lesser places where they serve simpler food at smaller prices. Critics say it has to do with their yearning for home cooking after the glitz of stardom. Whatever the reason, Riquewihr has just such a place, opened by the cooking god Jean-Luc Brendl and I am happy to be a guest here tonight.

I'm going to include here notes that I took during the dinner. Skip over it if you wish. It's thoughts that I have on traveling alone.

Why is traveling alone such a rare thing? In places I stay, in eateries where I dine, I'm nearly always the only one who sits alone. Why? I mean, people are so nice to the solo traveler! Not out of pity, but because you can engage a person who is without the distraction of a companion. You are an easy target for pent up friendliness.

Yes, I get how most of us would prefer to share rich experiences with people we love and care about. But surely there are lots of people without partners, or, whose partners like mine do not like travel. Do they always choose to stay home over going alone?

The table next to mine has three Americans at it. They're reviewing cancer deaths. Who dies when and of what cancer.  With details of how that occurred (suddenly? slowly?). It's sad and I selfishly wish they'd change topics. (They do not know I am one of them. I speak enough French to sound French to Americans. I always want to tell my neighbors in restaurants -- you should always assume that everyone understands every word that you're saying. English speaking people forget that. When they hear their neighbor speak French, they think -- we're safe! Let's reveal all our secrets! No one will know!

During this trip more than ever I wish I could write poems.

Ed takes a book along when he goes out to eat alone. I take my notebook. It's so fine to write in the buzz of the noise of a dining room!

Lovers to my left more than make up for my downers to my right. If I traveled with groups, what if all people around me were downers?

As I move from one excellent course to the next (and so inexpensive!), I think to myself -- these are some of my most favorite moments of travel. I am immersed, yet detached. I listen, but say nothing.

I sit there, the buzz around me intensifies, my senses are getting massaged and I think -- why isn't this talked of as a preferred form of travel?

The food is predictably grand (smoked trout with apples and scallion, roasted veal with spaetzle), the price -- the lowest I've paid yet in Riquewihr, with my most favorite dessert of the trip -- a yogurt parfait in a delicately spiced strawberry sauce.


I come home to my little place deeply satiated and I open email. Some of you may have wondered what ever happened to my book project. Well, I sent query letters to just a few (aspirational) agents and let it go for now. I hadn't the time to really canvass the field out there. But tonight I open an email from one of them. She wants to read the whole thing. 

I am very happy.

The clouds roll in, the temperature drops just a little. Tomorrow is my last day in Alsace. It truly is extraordinary how quickly the time here has gone by.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday in Alsace

Before I launch into the day, I have to admit this: I'd been to Riquewihr before. A memorable trip date wise -- it was in the week following 9/11. I had come to Alsace to launch my not so brilliant idea of leading small groups of Americans on tours of France -- specifically, ones putting the travelers in touch with producers of foods and wines, culminating each night with a superb dinner of regional foods. (You didn't know I did that? Ah, yes, I've worn many hats over the last decades!)

I put the idea to rest after two such trips -- one to Alsace and the other to Provence. I was so giddy with excitement in trying to provide the best of experiences that I spent far more than I took in. Not only was it a financial loss, but, too, the potential liability issues were frightening, as I was the organizer, driver, tour leader, etc etc all in one. If something had gone wrong, all fingers would have pointed to me.

Still, it was fun for the two times I did it and on the Alsatian trip, we dined at the Michelin starred restaurant in Riquewihr, La Table du Gourmet -- which, they say, is just this year vying for a second star. If you follow this stuff, very few places on this planet can boast two Michelin stars.

These days, I look for far simpler dining experiences. When I worked in a restaurant (for those who didn't know, I did that too -- some dozen years ago), I cared deeply about food presentation, but even decades before that, I really worried about what we eat. Fresh and honest was my go to phrase way before it became trendy in this country to speak that way. But now my palate wants the simpler stuff. (As does my pocketbook.) And so today, I take great care in considering all the eating suggestions my hosts gave me and I finally settle on one that seems perfect for today's lunch -- Le Sarment d'Or.

I begin with this topic of lunch because it's Sunday and I am in France and this meal on this day is serious business. Most restaurants worth their salt will be closed tonight because the French, especially those outside Paris, can't imagine that you could eat equally well on Sunday evening. Their great belief is that the big meal today should be in the afternoon and it should take a long time. So I walk around, glance at menus and make my reservation early.

But, before doing that, I have an even earlier activity to report. Waking at around 7, I note that the sky is just getting that predawn light that bespeaks of fine weather ahead. Maybe I should be up for a sunrise? It could be pretty in these parts. Can't tell unless you go out and look for it.

So I climb the wet, grassy hill of vines and I am indeed rewarded. First, the view toward Riquewihr:


Then, sunrise in Alsace:

( a distant town, mist over the valley, German mountains beyond)

(the two windows in the roof? mine)

(grapes catch the morning light)

And since I am up already, I may as well stroll through town before the groups of visitors arrive. It's really beautiful in the dawn's early light.





Not surprising that it belongs to France's designated "most beautiful villages." (Also not surprising: that the French rank their villages.)

I get happy thinking about breakfast at the local tea shop.


But after it, I change my strategy for the remainder of my stay. Two things were wrong with that most important meal: the cappuccino was 3.5 Euros and the little kuglehopf (or croissant, had I chosen that) was another couple of Euros. Now, if I can have the same breakfast at a very posh cafe in Florence (true, standing up, but still), for less than half that price, I feel this is a bit much for me to spend in Riquewihr. Too, the rules at the place are odd. No photos permitted of their pastries, which strikes me as an absurd and poor marketing strategy. So goodbye tea room, hello eating at home (all the more so since they have an espresso machine in my little apartment; I tell you, Jean-Paul has thought of everything).

I spend the rest of the morning watching the village fill with visitors. And I'm enjoying the color of this! It's a drop dead gorgeous autumnal day and I hear not only German but also French and Japanese.


Impulsively, I stop in at a wine producer to buy a half bottle of Riesling. It's Hugel & Fils -- quite a known name and a big wine house (there are 1200 wine houses in Alsace), but the seller is very friendly and despite my tiny purchase, has me taste some of the stuff he has opened for a Japanese couple whose wallets were obviously bulging.

(the wrought iron sign of Hugel)


It is really tempting to stroll and enter some of the shops lining the main street and I do that as well, just as they open for the day. In one shop, I pick up a few post cards and as I admire a very Alsatian motif in the pictures, I notice that they're all sketched by Hansi (real name: Jean-Jacques Waltz). Oh! The store also acts as a front to a museum -- which has a lot of the original work by Hansi, placed in the context of local daily life memorabilia from the years in which he lived and worked. His life  -- 1873-1951 -- spanned tough years for Alsace as it struggled to maintain a French cultural identity despite its rather aggressive at the time neighbor to the east.


The museum is, of course, empty. No one on a day trip wants to see this stuff, nor the film that they run nonstop (in French) about his life and times. But I watch it. It's really sort of touchingly extraordinary. You might call his artwork almost childishly precious. The scenes of Alsace show off a bygone era, with folk costumes, lots of children, geese, storks, and lovely images of the Alsatian architecture and, too, of the culture that is so much unique to this region. But Hansi wasn't just a painter of sweet scenes that are readily adaptable to postcards now. He was staunchly anti-German at a time when Alsace was annexed to the German empire (in 1871 -- returning to France in 1918, though with some degree of autonomy still: it's a very complicated history!) and he was arrested and beaten many times by the Germans for his caricatures of Germans and of German habits.

(His sketches of people are often used to create the wrought iron sings, so typical of the region. See two examples just above.)


And here, I want to put in one of my many, I realize, plugs for travel: So much of this stuff is now available on the internet. I hadn't known about Hansi and after the museum visit, I wanted to know more. But if I hadn't been here, my curiosity would have remained dormant. Perhaps one great gift of travel is this: it wakens sleepy corners of your soul. And you walk away humbled and enriched.

And hungry! I'm ready for my lunch and it is a splendid one! Again I choose the fixed price menu and I am offered a delicious salmon/crab salad, followed what you would probably call glorified (duck) liver and you'd be right, except that it really is glorified -- pan fried but buttery soft inside, with a sauce that was advertized as having artichokes and tomato confit, and I was astonished to see a large handful of chanterelle mushrooms and, too, shavings of white truffle thrown in. When I commented to madame at this pleasant surprise, she smiled and shrugged lightly -- it's what we had in the kitchen today.

(pan fired duck liver, with trimmings)

After lunch I'm back at the grocery store, where the clerk is about as nice as they come. I'm shopping for milk for my newly planned breakfasts at home and for foods for the smaller meal each day, be it lunch or dinner.

(urging us to sample)

And finally, I pick up a detailed map of the area at the tourist office. There's a marked great hike that I can do tomorrow, but there are numerous smaller hikes that I can put together on my own. Alsace is, in fact, a walker's paradise. At last, a place where I can link nature with village life -- all this against the backdrop of the magnificent Vosges Mountains to the west, and the sloping vineyards, leading to a vast plain to the east. It's not strenuous stuff, though the distances can add up -- all this suits me just fine.

I'm thinking it's getting on in the afternoon, but surely I have it in me to do a small hike. And of course, that small hike takes me from one village to the next one...


...and then the next one and I tell myself -- that's okay, I can always catch the bus back to Riquewihr. So, want to follow? It's very vineyard intense! Again, I am entranced by the patterns these rows of vines create!



And if you look closely at the last photo, you'll see that there is a harvest! I would say 75% of the Alsatian grapes have been picked already. Here, a young man is picking by hand. His grandfather (I'm guessing here) is sitting in the back of a hatchback, waiting. The grandfather gets up when he hears the commotion on the truck. (Including me jumping on to take photos.)




I wave and continue onwards.

As I approach the rather larger village of Ribeauville, I'm struck how different the vibe is here. Riquewihr has a unique beauty and though the other villages share some of its characteristics, I'm certain that Riquewihr is the little star of the region.

Four photos of the people of Ribeauville:

(the young men of Ribeauville)

(younger couples)

(at the cafe)

(older couple, with that Alsatian moustache)

Okay, time to catch the bus back. Excuse me, where is the bus stop?
Oh, but madame, the bus does not run on Sundays!
Oh dear. Small hike turns into long hike. But as Ed always tells me, you look at things differently heading back. Let's see what I can pick out for you from the reverse journey.


(finally! Riquewihr)

(admiring kuglehopfs and spice cakes)

Home now. Bread and cheese out for supper. A local Munster -- so pungent that the whole fridge has picked up the aroma. A glass of Hugel Gevurztraminer. A cookie left over from Milan.


I'll leave you with one of my favorite French salutations -- today, the fill in the blank was "soleil" (sun), so it went like this -- Profitez du soleil! (Another time it could be -- profitez de vos vacances  or, profitez d'un bon week-end.) The idea is that you are given this gift -- sunshine, vacation, a week-end and you should claim all riches appended to it. Don't neglect to reap the rewards! Look for them! Profit from them!