Winter Retreats in France
Janine Marsh, award-winning author of The Good Life France, recommends three wonderful winter retreats in France.
When the grape harvest is over and the wind whistles through the vineyards, you might be surprised to know it’s a great time to visit France. Museums are less crowded, menus reflect the season with hearty and tasty dishes and there’s not much that beats enjoying a glass of wine in a cosy café…
Enchanting little Riquewihr with its quaint half-timbered houses, lots of restaurants, wine bars and lovely boutiques, is an excellent base for touring the area. Don’t miss enchanting Eguisheim, voted favourite village of the French in 2017. Colmar is a must-see with its sensational old town, known as “little Venice” thanks to the canal that crosses it, lined with colourful, gorgeous old houses. Don’t miss a trip to the Chateau de Kaysersberg, perched high up on a hill with stunning views. It is fascinating, here you’ll really get a feel for just how tough winters were in days gone by!
Local specialities are influenced by neighbouring Germany. Choucroute (sauerkraut) is served everywhere as is baeckeoffe, a robust meat and wine stew. Finish with sweet kugelhopf or birewecke, a bread style cake filled with dried fruits and spices – and a lot of Kirsch.
Wine and dine: Au Trotthus Riquewihr. Chef Philippe Aubron’s dishes are beautiful to look at and seriously delicious. His apple pie and home-made ice cream is probably the best you will ever taste.
In the city of Bordeaux, the number one must see is the Cité du Vin, it is extraordinary. Innovative displays take you through the history of wine from millennia ago to today. Included in the price is a wine tasting on the 8th floor with fabulous views over the city. Head to 7th floor restaurant Le 7 for more superb views, wine knowledgeable staff and a delectable menu.
Wander the streets of old Bordeaux where the UNESCO listed Neoclassical architecture is magnificent. Enjoy a night at the Opera and visit museums galore. The shopping is second to none and with thousands of superb restaurants, this is a city that gives Lyon a run for its money. Local specialities include tourin bordelaise, an onion soup thickened with egg yolks. There is also entrecôte Bordelaise, steak with a rich red wine sauce, and canelé, a soft cake with rum and vanilla flavoured filling.
Stay at: Live like a local at the luxurious apartment in the city. Your Bordeaux Home offers several superb options.
Beaune, in the heart of Burgundy, has a beautiful old centre with cobbled streets and is terrific for wandering. You can also warm up with a hot chocolate and enjoy the wonderful architecture. The must-see place is the Hotel Dieu founded by Guigone de Salins and her husband Nicolas Rolin in 1443. On the third weekend of November the Three Glorieuses charity wine auction takes place. The proceeds are used for the local hospital’s equipment and the hotel-dieu’s conservation.
In January, the colourful festival of Saint Vincent Tournante honours the feast day of St. Vincent, patron saint of wine. The event attracts thousands to enjoy a carefully choreographed collaboration between the Brotherhood of Tastevin, the Church and local wine making societies.
In Beaune you’ll enjoy plenty of choice for great restaurants. Of course Boeuf Bourguignon is a firm favourite. Try coq au vin made with Burgundy wine and Pain d’Epices ginger cake – ideal winter dishes.
Wine and dine: Hotel Le Cep, an institution in Beaune. Gastronomic dishes and 70 different wines by the glass in a historic 16th century mansion.
Credits – images courtesy of Janine Marsh and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté Tourisme