Alsatian spirits

As the Swedish summer ended, Christel Lagier invited us for a final taste of the season in her hometown Marlenheim, in France’s eastern border region of Alsace. Route des vins (wine trail)Christel, husband Andy, and their three children were joined on the trip from London by equally longtime friends James and Amanda, and their toddler Cerys.

We guests found generous accommodations with neighbors Doris and Vero. But most days Christel’s mother Rosemarie hosted the multi-generation circus, including Christel’s brother, sister, nieces, nephew, and extended family.

We celebrated several late-summer birthdays with a choucroute garnie feast that tested even the stronger stomachs. Paul Lagier’s tartes flambées (savory and sweet versions) were a gentler flamboyant treat.

Marlenheim marks the porte de la route des vins d’Alsace (gate to the Alsatian wine trail); our bedroom faced the sloping vineyards. Wine tasting at Charles Muller was a revelation in pinot gris.

We were even luckier to score a tour of the Hagmeyer eau de vie stills in Balbronn; sureau noir (elderberry) and poire Williams (Bartlett pear) were especially divine.

Thanks to the London bank holiday, we extended the weekend with a visit to Christel’s classmate Lisbeth at her family’s spa-hotel La Clairière, outside the medieval village La Petite-Pierre. We attended Andy and Christel’s wedding here in 2009, and the hotel—especially its elegant mineral baths and steam rooms—lived up to all our memories. This time we worked in a hike through the neighboring Loosthal forest, with views across the hazy valley.

It’s something special to feel at home so far away.

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