We are in Alsace, France right now, and we are enjoying the Crémant d’Alsace! What is “Crémant d’Alsace,” you ask?
We first need to start with a little wine education. Many people often use the word “Champagne” for any sparkling wine, but that is not correct! If you are a wine-geek, you already know this, but the word “Champagne” can only be used for sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. So, you can get sparkling wine from California, Italy, Spain and from a bunch of wine regions in France — almost anywhere in the world where wine is produced. But, it’s only called “Champagne” when it comes from a certain small area of France.
So, Crémant d’Alsace is the sparkling wine of Alsace — the wine-producing region in Eastern France right along the German border. They make some great wines here – lots of Rieslings, Gewurztraminers and Pinot Blancs. But, they also make great sparkling wine. Crémant d’Alsace is generally a bit less expensive than Champagne, but the taste is outstanding. (The fancy name “Champagne” can often add a few bucks – or more – to your wine bill.)
We love to drink local and our taste buds are thanking us for Crémant d’Alsace this week. (It’s a scorcher and it sure is refreshing!) But, even between tours to Europe, we look for wines to remind us of our adventures – so, check your local wine shop for a Crémant d’Alsace and give it a try.
Back in 2005, Anthony Bourdain’s first episode of “No Reservations” was entitled “Why the French Don’t Suck.” (You can watch the late, great chef & TV personality here.) Anthony’s first episode was a little strange at times, but we connected with his love of travel, his passion for food & drink, and his dark sense of humor. And, we 100% agree that the French don’t suck!
The French Aren’t Rude
This is the first thing we hear from Americans who have traveled to France, or who are contemplating it. But, it is a myth!
First, we need to pause and realize that the American culture & French culture are very different. Things that we accept as the norm (like free public toilets, a waiter checking on our table every five minutes, smiling at strangers) are strange to the French. So, the #1 thing to do when you think someone is being rude to you in France (or, any foreign country for that matter), is to pause and ask yourself if you are expecting something to be exactly the same as home.
A couple quick tips:
- It would be rude for a waiter or waitress to interrupt your meal every five minutes asking you if everything is ok.
- You can sit at that dinner table all night nursing a coffee or a glass of wine. The wait-person will not bring your bill to get you to move along. Just give him or her a wave when you want your bill.
- If you are at a very busy restaurant in a touristy area, your server will be busy – curt service is expected. (And, in these touristy areas you may actually find some rude people – that’s why we frequent establishments with a more “local” vibe.)
- Politeness begets politeness. The French always greet each other – when entering a shop or café, say “Bonjour” and when you leave, pause for a second and say, “Merci” – even if you are saying it into the void of a busy establishment – someone will respond back and appreciate your politeness, as it is expected in French culture.
- Not everyone speaks English. And, even if they do, they may not speak English to you. Our French friends have told us that this is another part of French culture – self-consciousness. If they don’t feel that they can present perfect English to you, they will stick with speaking French. They are NOT being rude! They are just as nervous to try and speak English as you are to try to say something in French! (By the way, all of our guides, drivers, hotel personnel & recommended restaurants speak English! And we speak a little French ourselves.) However, the French are extremely tolerant of your attempts to speak French and extremely appreciative as well. We’ve been able to get a smile from strangers just from our attempts to go beyond what is expected and to actually speak French!
We have had some great experiences that completely dispel the myth of rude French – random people stopping in Paris and asking if we need help finding our way… Waiters speaking very slowly to us so we can practice our French… and, so many more.
The French Food & Wine is the Best
That first episode of “No Reservations” is a great introduction to French food & wine. The French take their food and wine very seriously. Can you say “non-pasteurized cheese?” Can’t get that in the US! How many cheeses are there in France? There’s an old saying that there are as many cheeses as there are days in the year, but, truth be told, there are so many more. We like cheese in this house, so we want to be anywhere that loves cheese that much!
Wine…need we say more? French wine is amazing and our favorite. Whether it’s a First Growth red or a house glass of rosé at a café, enjoying French wine is always delightful and a voyage for your senses.
Pastries, that’s what Jess goes for. She always brings money with her on her morning runs, so she can head straight to her favorite patisserie. The options are astounding and range from basic and delicious to elegant and mind blowing. And the baguette…any place that has reverence for something as simple as the baguette, we want to be there. Did you know that French law states that traditional baguettes have to be made on the premises they’re sold and can only be made with four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and yeast. They can’t be frozen at any stage or contain additives or preservatives, which also means they go stale within 24 hours. As if they’d last 24 hours in our hands!
There is so much more to French food: steak frites, boeuf bourguignon, croque monsieur, the list goes on, but you get the idea. You’re going to want to eat when you’re in France!
The French Have Life Figured Out
We Americans are always “go! go! go!” And, when we only have a limited amount of time for a European vacation, we definitely want to see all the sights. But, don’t miss out on the relaxation. Be like the French and sit for hours at a sidewalk café with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and watch the world pass by. Or, stroll leisurely along the Seine (and, maybe stop for a glass of rosé at a riverside bar.) Linger for a few of hours over a four-course dinner — and, finish it off with an espresso, like the French always do. Then follow up dinner by window shopping and taking in the Eiffel Tower twinkling on your way back to your hotel. Take your time & see the real France.
Experience all the amazing experiences that France has to offer – check out our running tours in France here!