Ten things I learned in Alsace and Burgundy…

Every time I take a trip, I like to take a moment and reflect on the things I learned during my travels.  No matter where I go, I always learn something new.  On this particular trip, I learned more about French food!  But I also learned some other things that I want to share with those who read this blog. So here goes…

10.  Ribeauville is pronounced “Ribeauvillay”.

I was curious about how to pronounce Ribeauville because I noticed that all the signs showed an accent over the second e in the name.  I asked Yannick, our host at our first gite, how to pronounce Ribeauville and he helped me out.  Here’s a link to where you can hear French speakers say it.

By the same token, Alsace is pronounced “Al-zahss” (not Al-sayce).

9.  There’s an art to ordering steak in France.  

I was under the impression that in France, most people like their meat bloody.  It’s also been my impression that the French know Americans don’t always like really rare meat.  If you want to be in the know for enjoying beef in France, here’s a guide to how to order it.  I asked for medium steak twice and ended up with well-done the second time.  If I had known the French terms, maybe it would have turned out differently.

8.  The word for turkey in French is “dinge”.  Storks are a big deal in Alsace.  

And I like turkey, so that’s good to know for next time!  I never knew there were so many storks in that part of France and had not noticed them prior trips.

7.  Escargot isn’t half bad…

It’s not all bad, either.  I was pleasantly surprised by the escargot Bill and I tried in Burgundy, although I think all the garlic helped.  It reminded me somewhat of eating haggis, though, and will probably be an experience saved for special occasions.  I will say that every time I have smelled escargots being prepared, I have been intoxicated by the aroma.  They always smell delicious to me, even if the idea of eating something slimy is a bit off putting.  But, in fairness to snails, they aren’t slimy when they’ve been cooked.

6.  Kugelhopf is a tasty breakfast bread.

It’s available in Germany, too, especially close to the French border.  I’d probably still prefer croissants, but there aren’t really any bad French breads, are there?

5.  You can have a great time in a no name destination.

I say “no name”, but what I really mean is a place that isn’t on the tourist map.  Ribeauville is definitely more touristy than Saint Marcelin-de-Cray is, but I think Bill and I enjoyed the less touristy side of our trip more.  It was fun just to be in a place where we were aliens and could just soak up the atmosphere.  It was great being in what the wine seller described as “the real France”.

4. Going off the beaten path is good for the soul as well as the brain.

All week, we were challenged to learn a little bit of French.  We ran into only one group of Americans and that was on the first night of our seven night trip.  Although a few people we ran into spoke English, we had to live a bit more by our wits.  And if you read my series, you now know that can sometimes lead to eating chitterlings.

3.  Andouillette in France is NOT the same as American Andouille sausage. 

Moreover, the French also do Andouille sausage differently than the Cajun folks do.  If you are an adventurous eater who enjoys offal, it may be a thrill to try it in France.  If you’re not, you may want to be aware.  That being said, I read that Andouillette is a delicacy in Burgundy.  It’s also very popular in Lyon, which is considered France’s food city.  There’s even a club for connoisseurs.

2.  In Burgundy, if you are offered “coffee” at four o’clock, don’t be surprised if you end up with wine.

Of course, you may also get coffee.

1.  If you haven’t tried staying in a self-catering “gite” (pronounced zheet), you should give it a go.  

When Bill and I lived in Germany the first time, we pretty much always stayed in B&Bs and hotels when we traveled.  This time, because it’s not as easy to book our dogs at their favorite place, we have been taking them with us.  Our dogs are not the most polite hounds on the block, so we like to find places to stay where they won’t be disruptive to others.  Gites are great for that purpose.  I have found that France is especially dog friendly, too.  We spend a lot less money for larger accommodations where we can cook our own meals and not have to worry about disrupting housekeepers.  It’s a win/win all the way around.  I still love going to really nice hotels and being pampered, but when we bring our dogs, gites are the best alternative.  And we have met some great people that way, too.

And also great donkeys…



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