One of my favorite trips while on a Rhine River cruise on Uniworld’s S.S. Antoinette was the stunning drive through the villages and countryside of the Alsace Wine Route. Our guide was Veronique Herbreteau, who kept us entertained with stories of Alsace traditions of people who put a broken wheel on their roof for the storks to nest and of women who put a little heart on the roof to tell the world they were looking for love. We noticed crosses on the highway, which were there for the laborers who didn’t have time to go to church.
We stopped for lunch at Riquewihr, a picturesque medieval French village oozing with charm. We were greeted by the local baker who offered us samples of irresistible macaroons. Shortly thereafter, we came upon “Au Vieux Riquewihr,” a brasserie offering tarte flamblée and white asparagus, two regional delicacies that I absolutely had to try with a glass of Riesling from a local winery. I was feeling so mellow that I could have sat at the table all day soaking up the sun. In France, dining is an experience to be savored in a relaxed environment where you are never rushed, unlike here where many of us just eat and run.
I was disappointed that we didn’t visit a winery along the Alsace Wine Route. For my European wine tasting experience, I had to wait until we reached Rüdesheim. Nestled along the rolling, vineyard-covered hills of the Rheingau is Schloss Vollrads Vineyard & Winery, which dates back to the 14th century. At this historic and spectacular setting, I expected the local “wine expert” who led our private tour to be more sophisticated and knowledgeable about wines. Instead, she was in her early twenties and dressed like she had just come from a college campus. We had the opportunity to taste three wines: Volratz dry, Kabinett semi dry and Spatlëse sweet. They were all good wines and reasonably priced.
Rüdesheim is also home to Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum. This is one of the most unusual and amusing museums I’ve ever visited; it has a display of over 350 mechanical music machines that play most of the instruments in an orchestra. I must say that the “orchestra in a box” concept was new to me and can imagine that these music cabinets were a great source of entertainment 100 years ago. One of our fellow river cruise passengers had a heck of a good time pretending to be an organ grinder. Perhaps he missed his calling?
On this trip, we also visited Strasbourg, where I climbed 330 steps to the terrace of Notre Dame Cathedral to get some great panoramic photos of the city. The highlight of the trip was my visit to the Rotary Club of Strasbourg – Ouest. It is always fun to mix and mingle with the locals and I only regret that we didn’t have more time to visit. The speaker was a professor at a local university who presented the French perspective of the Royal wedding. And, yes, the wine did flow.