Saturday Culinary Village Charleston Wine & Food Festival

Saturday Culinary Village Charleston Wine & Food Festival

It may seem strange at this late date to be reaching back into my log of unwritten posts, all the way to last May, to write today – when there are numerous subjects to write about from July’s visit to Strasbourg, or even more recently, October’s visit to Rome and Venice.  Perhaps I am a bit nostalgic, with last March’s visit to Charleston being our last such visit before becoming residents of the city.  Certainly, I would want to capture one last time the feeling of being outsiders enjoying the richness of what Charleston has to offer.

But in another sense, I want to share just a couple of the posts that did not get written, while we were in the midst of our transition to Charleston residents – before moving on to the here and now.  So here are some highlights of our day at the Wine & Food Festival 2017.

Le Creuset Deviled Egg Platter in new Marine Color

Our new friends the Sussers, who had been to the Friday Culinary Village, warned us that if we made a beeline to the Le Creuset booth, we could get a shopping bag to carry our swag for the day (for some reason, they don’t give you such a shopping bag when you enter, as is common for example at the New York festival).  We were delighted, not only to get our shopping bags (which were huge), but also to learn about a new dish Le Creuset was debuting – the Deviled Egg platter.  We resolved right then and there to get one, with the idea that we might be able to use it to make one of our favorite hors d’oeuvres, bacon-wrapped dates.

Just next to the Le Creuset station was a huge tent (you can see it in the map above marked “Third Space”) that included four food stations for the four elements of land, earth, sea and air.  We had our first sample of the day there – a chicken salad pita – and I had my first experience of asking for something to be made for me without dairy.  The fellow manning the station had a sense of humor about it, and the pita tasted good.

From there, the grounds were wide open to us.  We would have to show our wristband to move from quadrant to quadrant of the Marion Square grounds, but where we went was up to us.

We headed to the Biergarten first, with the idea of getting some free beer glasses, courtesy of Bay Street Biergarten.  But we also tried out their tasso ham sampler while we were there.

Brisket Over Grits from Cuisine Solutions

After that, there were so many samples, most of them quite delicious, that I can’t remember them all.  The brisket sampler comes to mind for two reason – first, the brisket was made sous-vide, or slow cooked.  Second, it was served over grits, which nearly always contain dairy.  I carefully plucked the brisket off the grits on mine, and enjoyed it.

Nobody ever has to tell me to “eat more duck!” but as a lover of duck, it was great to see the sign posted by Joe Jurgielewicz .  And his samplings of duck breast were yummy.

Broccoli Over Sweet Potato Puree with Pistachios

While the vast majority of the samplings were meat-focused (sometimes even meat-exclusive), there were some quite excellent ones utilizing all the flavors of the vegetable world.  This one with broccoli, sweet potato and pistachios was my favorite.  Surround pretty much anything with crumbled pistachios and I will be a fan.

Close to the middle of the grounds was a huge stage with demonstrations going on all day.  Right around the time that I needed to take a break from stuffing my face, Chef Vivian Howard, who I know from the PBS series “A Chef’s Life,” was up.  Like so many people, I was all like “hey, what did she do with her hair?” (she cut it pretty radically).  And then I felt like such a loser celebrity fan.

Sunset from the Hilton Garden Inn

There was so much good food, I can’t even begin to tell you about all of it.  Truth is, I was more focused on eating and enjoying myself than documenting the day.  But rest assured, it was a wonderful day.  Our bellies full, we made it back to our hotel in time to see the sunset over the Ashley River.

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Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral Begins Our Alsatian Adventures

Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral Begins Our Alsatian Adventures

Any major western European city worth its salt is going to have a beautiful massive cathedral at the heart of its historic center.  And if that city is in a historically Catholic country, odds are the church will be named after “Our Lady” (in the language of their choice), i.e., after the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, the person at the heart of Christianity.  Well, check both those boxes when it comes to Strasbourg.  All things considered, I couldn’t help but feel that the smartest thing to do was to make their Cathedral the first stop on our exploration of Strasbourg.

Strasbourg Cathedral Altar

The first thing that impressed me about this cathedral was the relative murkiness of the interior – the stone used in building it has a rather brownish tint, and whether it needs a good cleaning or not, it felt to me to be a little on the dark side.

The second thing was that the powers that be have decided that the visitors have to be told what direction to go in to explore the church – they literally have guide-ropes and signs telling you where to start, etc.  Never a smart thing to do, in my opinion.  The natural thing to do is to just wander and take it all in, and this way, if (as we did) your natural inclination is to NOT go the way they suggest, you feel like you’re doing it wrong.

Anyway… murkiness and guide-ropes aside, one of the features that is bound to impress is the huge amount of glorious stained glass.  Now, some of it is very very dirty, but there is enough that has been cleaned (I gather they are in the middle of the cleaning process) to get an idea of how marvelous their stained glass is (for a close up look at some of the stained glass, check out the Musee de l’Ouevre Notre Dame de Strasbourg next door, where they have saved some of the most incredible pieces from war and destruction).

There is so much stained glass that it can easily be overwhelming.  Luckily, on-line there is a guide – and I was impressed, by the way, by how good the cell phone reception was inside the cathedral.  Using that guide, I was able to locate some of the more interesting sections, like Adam and Eve being expelled from paradise, and the Flight into Egypt.

The cathedral is famous for its Astronomical Clock, which is in a chapel on the right side all the way at the far end.  It chimes and figures move and such at principal times, but we didn’t hang around for that.  The scrum of people wanting to catch those moments was pretty intense – I found that taking a photo from an angle on the side was better, but that’s just me.

The Famous Strasbourg Cathedral Clock

All around, I have to say that I enjoyed the exterior of this cathedral most of all.  Maybe it was the murkiness inside.  But – for example – the three doors on the west side of the cathedral (i.e., the entrance) all had exceedingly interesting tympanums (or if you prefer, “tympani”).

Like the cathedral in Rouen, this cathedral has a smallish open square in front of it, and thus, it is very hard to get a photo of the whole building (unless you have some crazy cool wide angle lens, which I don’t).  The best I could do was to walk about half a block away and get most of it in a shot.  And may I say it’s a shame they never added the southwest tower/spire!

Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral

Just to give you an idea of how cozy/compact the square is, here is a photo of it – and no, at the time I took it, I didn’t realize that I had three policemen/soldiers with huge automatic rifles right in front of me.

The Place de la Cathedrale

One other point – at the Strasbourg Cathedral, they have an example of a growing trend (it seems) with European cathedrals – projecting colorful videos onto them after dark.  The previous summer, we saw the Lumieres de Cathedrale put on in Rouen, and it was just tons of fun.  I am sure that Strasbourg’s “Ballet des Ombres Heureuses” (Ballet of the Happy Shades/Ghosts) is also really really cool.  Unfortunately, we were never downtown at night, so we didn’t get a chance to see it!

Advertisement for the Ballet des Ombres Heureuses

But even if, like us, you don’t find yourself in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral at night, you should make it a point to check it out.  The stained glass and the exterior stone sculptures (some of the latter of which is also in the museum next door, by the way) are well worth experiencing!

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Settling into Our First Evening in Strasbourg France

Settling into Our First Evening in Strasbourg France

It was quite the journey just getting to Strasbourg, France from Charleston, South Carolina.  First there were the flights from Charleston to Atlanta, and Atlanta to Paris Charles de Gaulle.  Then there was the taxi ride through the worst rain storm Paris has ever seen, then a few hours to kill at Gare de l’Est train station, and the comfortable high speed train to Strasbourg.  From there, it was just a short taxi ride to our hotel, the Strasbourg Hilton, which is not far from the historic center (just a couple of tram stops to the north).  Once we got there, we could finally relax, and settle into our first evening in Strasbourg.

After setting things up in the hotel room a bit – you know, hanging up shirts in the closet and putting the tooth brush in the bathroom, et cetera – we were ready to head into “town.”  That is, we were going to take our first stab at taking Strasbourg’s tram to the Grand Ile, the rather compact island where life in Strasbourg began, and where most of the historic things in the city are concentrated (the cathedral, museums, and so on).  We later discovered that you can buy individual tram tickets (with exact change) at most of the stops, but to be sure, we got some from the concierge desk of the hotel (they were happy to just add them to our hotel bill – how nice is that?).  And once we oriented ourselves upon leaving the hotel, we found the three block walk to the Lycée Kléber tram stop very short indeed.

Four stops, and maybe fifteen minutes later, we were in the heart of the Grand Ile.  And good thing too, because we were hungry, and it was in fact dinner time, and we found a restaurant nearby – called Kohler-Rehm, it sits right on the eastern edge of one of the city’s main squares, Place Kléber.  We sat down, and I ordered a typical Alsatian dish, Choucroute garnie – pork products like sausage and boiled potatoes stewed with sauerkraut (that’s the “choucroute” part of the name).  Above you see a photo of my dinner.  Gets me hungry all over again just looking at it!

Once we had some dinner, the gravity of all we had done that day just in getting to Strasbourg started weighing on us.  So we put off further exploration for the next day, and hopped back onto the tram, and fell right into bed once we were back at the Hilton.  A long exhausting day, but with a very satisfying finish.

Posted in Countries, Dairy Free, Dinner, Food, France, German Food, Restaurants, Sausage, Strasbourg, Train travel, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Overview of Three Weeks in Rome and Venice Italy

Overview of Three Weeks in Rome and Venice Italy

After our month-long trip in July of 2016, we decided that we wanted to do another long trip like that.  This time, for the last three weeks of October, we visited Italy – one week staying at a Hilton Garden Inn Hotel to the northeast of Rome’s historic center, and two weeks in an apartment in Venice’s quiet hamlet of Cannaregio.  And it was just as magical and incredible as you might imagine.

I had read lots of travelogues of Rome and Venice while I was planning our itinerary, and in Rome especially, there were lots of people who expressed disappointment in the food.  So I was a little wary, first of all about how much good food without dairy I might be able to find, and secondly, how much good food of any sort we might encounter.  The good news is we did great, and I did great.  I would say that in three weeks, we had maybe two meals that were not great.  The rest?  Lots of good food, and some of the best meals we found in unexpected places!

Now Italy is full of historic sights on a scale that even France doesn’t reach, I don’t think.  And of course both Rome and Venice have sights that are incredible, almost sickeningly popular.  Let’s start with the latter – many cruise ships stop at Venice, and untold numbers make a bee-line for the Piazza San Marco, with St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile and the Doge’s Palace (as well as Harry’s Bar and Caffe Florio).  We did our best to schedule our visits to that part of the city on day’s when no cruise ships were docked on Venice (I will share with you at least one website that gives you that information); and even then, things were busy, but not so much so that it made it impossible to enjoy the majestic square.

Therese in Front of St. Peter’s Dome in Rome

Then there was Rome and its juggernaut of popular sights – the Vatican, the Colosseum, the Forum and the accursed Trevi Fountain (give me any other Bernini fountain but that one, please!).  We did spend time at the first two (as you can see from the photo above), but did our best to limit the damage to our souls from being crammed in with a million of our closest friends paying homage to the thing we are programmed to believe is culture.  I will tell you more about how well we did avoiding the crowds, which to me were insane even though we were there in October, far from the height of the tourist season (God bless the poor folks who do a trip like ours in the middle of June!).

Anyway, so as usual, keep checking back – as I get more and more of the stories posted, you can check here to link to them.  The three weeks went something like this:

1. Friday, October 6 to Saturday, October 7: traveling to Italy.

2. Saturday, October 7: first day in Rome.

3. Sunday, October 8: Braving the crowds at the Colosseum.  Also visiting San Pietro in Vincoli, and San Clemente.

4. Monday, October 9: Early morning at the Sistine Chapel.  Gelato at Frigidarium and shopping at the Traveler’s Bookstore.

5.  Tuesday, October 10: MACRO (modern art museum); the Borghese Gallery; dinner at Il Viaggio.

6.  Wednesday, October 11: Our self-guided walking tour of Bernini’s masterpieces in Rome – Santa Maria della Vittoria; Fontana della Api; lunch at Pane e Salame; Pantheon and its Fountain; Elephant and Obelisk Bernini Sculpture; Bibliothe for healing snacks; Piazza Navona; dinner at Mastro Ciccia.

7. Thursday, October 12: Villa Farnesina; Tonnarello for lunch; Santa Maria della Trastevere; Piazza Venezia; Piazza del Campidoglio; Capitoline Museums; dinner at the Hotel Forum.

8. Friday, October 13: Our day of exploring Rome’s Mosaics.  Santa Maria Maggiore; Lunch at Antico Caffe Santamaria; Santa Pudenziana; Santa Prassede; San Giovanni in Laterano; healthy sweets at Oliva Dolci.

Okay, this is only what we did in Rome.  Unbelievable how much we accomplished during this trip!  We know well that it is going to be hard, maybe impossible, to ever plan a trip that will be more excellent than this one.  Onward to Venice/Venezia.

Day 9, Saturday October 14. Taking the train to Venezia; taking a water taxi from the train station to our incredible apartment; exploring the Cannaregio neighborhood.

10.  Sunday, October 15.  Madonna dell’orto; getting a peek at the Lagoon; Lunch at Ristorante Diana; making chicken with 40 cloves of garlic.

11.  Monday, October 16: Piazza San Marco – getting a Museum pass at Museo Correr; the Doge’s Palace; Lunch at Ristorante Trovatore; San Zaccario; Gelato Fantasy.

12.  Tuesday, October 17: The Accademia Gallery; Palazzo Cavalli-Franchetti; Gelato Fantasy again!

13.  Wednesday, October 18: Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari; lunch at Trattoria dona onesta; Scuola Grande di San Rocco; Band concert in the square; Gelato Il Doge.

14.  Thursday, October 19: Day trip to Verona – Piazza Bra and the Arena; Piazza delle Erbe; Piazza dei Signori; Basilica of Sant’ Anastasia; Castel San Pietro Hill; lunch at Re Teodorico; the Baptistery; the Duomo; L’arte di Gelato.

15.  Friday, October 20: Peggy Guggenheim Collection; Punta della Dogana.

At around this point, we realized we hardly had to extend ourselves to seeing too many sights, to just have an absolutely fabulous time.  The mass of incredible experiences we’d already had was such that we were riding the wave of enjoying ourselves.  Each new thing just delighted us that much more.

16.  Saturday, October 21: Boat ride to Torcello; lunch at Villa 600 (Go risotto!); Burano with its Lace Museum; Gelato Dai Fradei; Esse cookies; Mea Libera Tutti Sas.

17.  Sunday, October 22: Palazzo Grassi; Gelateria Paolin.

18.  Monday, October 23: Trattoria da Denis; Scuola Grande San Giorgio degli Sciavoni; Santi Giovanni e Paolo; Rosa Salva Gelato.

19.  Tuesday, October 24: Rialto Fish Market; Lunch at Osteria Banco Giro; Palazzo Museum Mocenigo; Fontega delle Dolcezze; Ca’ Pesaro.

20.  Wednesday, October 25: Day trip to Padova – Scrovegni Chapel; Palazzo della Ragione; Piazza dei Signore; Baptistery to the Duomo; University of Padova tour; Gelato from Ciokkolate; Prato della Valle; Basilica of Sant Antonio.

21.  Thursday, October 26: Isola San Giorgio; San Giorgio Maggiore; shopping for the violin mask; Suso Gelatoteca.

22.  Friday, October 27: Lunch at Bistrot de Venise; Museo Correr; Biblioteca Marciana; Suso Gelatoteca once again.

23.  Saturday, October 28 – Monday, October 30: returning home.  Staying at the Rome Airport Hilton, and the JFK Airport Hilton.

So much.  It will take me a while to get all these posts written.  Bear with me.

 

Posted in Cafes, Churches, Countries, Dairy Free, Food, Italian food, Italy, Markets, Museums, Padova, Restaurants, Rome, Train Stations, Travel, Venice, Verona | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Flying from Charleston to Paris through Atlanta

Flying from Charleston to Paris through Atlanta

Normally I don’t take much time to consider how I get from one place to another – I just look forward to getting there, and starting my vacation!  But of course the how of traveling is something many travelers put a lot of effort into.  For our trip to Strasbourg, France last July, for example, there were a few steps – from Charleston to Atlanta, then from Atlanta on to Paris, and lastly, a train ride to Strasbourg.

Artwork in Atlanta Hartsfield Airport

To be practical, while in Charleston Airport, I stopped off at their Caviar and Bananas kiosk (my favorite gourmet deli in Charleston), to get a sandwich (just in case the food on the flight was inedible) and some snacks.  Then it was on to Atlanta.

I am not a huge fan of Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport, but on this occasion, our time there was pretty painless.  We did get to see some of the airport’s artwork, which was nice.

Shrimp Salad, Fruit Salad and Quinoa Salad on Flight 82

People who have heard me talk about flying know how little luck I have in getting good dairy free food on an airplane.  In recent years I have taken to not alerting the airline of my allergy and trying to order a dairy free meal, because I have been disappointed in the results so often.  But I have recently had good luck with Delta – they sometimes have a simple salad with chicken or shrimp on it, and in this case, on Flight 82 to Paris, they had a nice shrimp salad.  It does help to have a seat somewhere near the front of the economy section on the airplane, because these sorts of salads are popular and will run out long before the flight attendants get to the last rows of the airplane.

My Delta Flight Video Screen

I had a good flight over all, I have to say.  Therese and I both watched lots of movies – Delta’s video interface is pretty good.  I also played lots of free cell solitaire on my phone, my favorite phone card game.

And as usual, I got no sleep on the airplane – a nuisance that I come to adjust to.  But otherwise, it was a pretty smooth flight to Paris.  When we got there, a deluge awaited us – first, a serious scrum of people at the Border Patrol at Charles de Gaulle Airport (which took more than an hour to get through), and then a literal deluge, a downpour of near historic proportions.  But that, as they say, is another story.

Posted in Airplane flights, Airplane food, Charleston, Countries, France, Paris, South Carolina, Travel, United States | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Secrets de Table and La Marseillaise Conclude First Strasbourg Day

Secrets de Table and La Marseillaise Conclude First Strasbourg Day

I have already told you about my visit to Strasbourg Cathedral and the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame with Therese.  In this post, I will tell you the rest of what happened on that day, our first in Strasbourg, including meals at Secrets de Table and La Marseillaise and some other adventures.

So for lunch, we let our eyes direct us, and just off the main street back from the cathedral, we spied a terrace restaurant with some potential, Secrets de Table.

Secrets de Table

While Therese went inside to get in line to order, I found us a table outside.  She brought me back a dish that was perfect: a warm quinoa salad with roasted vegetables and chicken (and of course, no butter or other offending dairy ingredients).  That was perfect.

After our lunch, I sadly had to walk Therese to the Sofitel hotel, where her workshop would begin, and say goodbye for now.  After I left her, I decided to wander a bit – perhaps to scout out possible dinner restaurants for us for later in the week, or just to see something interesting that wouldn’t necessarily make it into a guidebook.

I found the utterly charming street, the Rue Sainte-Helene.

On the one hand, this street had the kind of ancient looking, beautifully decorated houses one expects to find in such a historic city.  On the other hand, at one end of it (it is only like 2 blocks long) lies one of the city’s movie theaters, housed in what looks like a pop-art 1960s building.  Totally kitschy and fun.

From the end of Rue Sainte-Helene, I made my way back to the Musee de l’Oeuvre Notre Dame and spent a few more hours exploring what turned out to be an extensive collection (as I have described previously).  When I was done there, I was feeling like it was time for some refreshment.  Luckily not far away was Place Gutenberg, named after the man who pioneered the printing press (yep, he was from Strasbourg).

In the middle of the square is an old-fashioned merry-go-round, and on one side are a couple of restaurants with outdoor seating.  I picked the one that had more attractive table cloths, Aux Armes de Strasbourg, and ordered my favorite French beverage, Diabolo de Menthe (mint syrup and club soda/seltzer), and some strawberry sorbet (these two items were actually on the menu together as an option).  The sorbet tasted like the strawberries had just been picked from the vine (and indeed, in France strawberries are still in season in July – tell me again why I don’t live there?).  An utterly perfect refreshment.

By then, it was nearly time to pick up Therese from her workshop, so I walked back to the Sofitel.  Since I was a few minutes early, I decided to visit the church across the street (when I tell you that everywhere you turn on Strasbourg’s Grand Ile, there is another historic church, I am not kidding).  St-Pierre-le-Jeune is one of Strasbourg’s Protestant churches (although you have to be careful, because they also have a similarly named church which is a Catholic church – the city was definitely the front lines for the religious wars).

Lovely cloister, incredible altar painting, a touch of original frescos on the wall, and an ancient iron staircase – lots to love in this church.

So I had made a dinner reservation that night at La Marseillaise, a restaurant just one tram stop from where we were.  But unfortunately, Therese had to work that evening (poor Therese), preparing a report on her computer before the next day’s meetings.  So we asked the waiter at the restaurant if we could get food for takeaway.  He thought for a minute and said yes.  You know what they did?  They found a couple of dinner plates that had chips in them (which they probably were going to throw away anyway), put our orders on them, and covered them with aluminum foil and put them in a sack for us to take back to the hotel.  A bit unusual, but it worked.

Choucroute Garnie from La Marseillaise Restaurant

So we concluded our first lovely day in Strasbourg with dinner in our hotel room, with a beautiful sunset taking place just outside our window.  Life is good, my friends.

Sunset from our Hotel in Strasbourg

Posted in Dairy Free, Dessert, Dinner, Food, France, Lunch, Sorbet, Strasbourg | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Our Daytrip to Colmar, France on Fête Nationale 2017

Our Daytrip to Colmar, France on Fête Nationale 2017

During most of our week in Strasbourg, Therese was in workshops with her company and its client, while I was free to roam about and explore.  Toward the end of the week, though, her workshop finished and we had the better part of two days to explore together before we headed back to Paris, and from there, back to Charleston.  We decided to use one of those days, which also happened to be France’s independence day or Fête Nationale, to do a daytrip.  And while there are a number of storybook Alsatian villages not far from Strasbourg, we settled on visiting Colmar for two reasons.  One, it was a place that Therese had heard about but never yet visited (I always love to travel with her to places in Europe where she’s never been), and two, I heard that Colmar was home to the Unterlinden Museum and its famous Isenheim Altarpiece.

The train from Strasbourg to Colmar is very easy to navigate.  Since there are many trains a day (I think there is one about every half hour to hour), it was possible to buy them from the train station just a couple days ahead.  And it is a short ride, only about a half an hour.  The Colmar train station is small but functional – probably the most noteworthy thing I noticed was its machine that dispenses pharmaceuticals (I have never seen that before anywhere, and I have traveled on five continents!).

The train station is not far from the center of town, but to save our energy for traipsing about the museum and the town center, we took a short taxi ride to the Musee Unterlinden.  It is directly across the street from the town’s Tourist office (which we stopped in to get a city map, all the better to navigate our way through the town’s highlights), and both opened around the same time, I believe it was 10am.

This was the second year in a row that we were in France on their Fête nationale, and we were curious to see how much would be open on the holiday.  The previous year, we had discovered that not much was open in Rouen on that date.  And in this case, we had chosen to travel on the holiday because my research showed that there was not much to do in Strasbourg on the holiday.  Well, to make a long story less long, it turned out that nearly everything was open and operating on the holiday in Colmar, starting with its famous museum.

The museum is housed in a former convent (more on that later), and after buying your tickets, the first thing you do is pass through the cloister of the convent.  Then you pass in to a series of galleries – I’m not sure if this was a permanent installation, but it highlighted the work of local Renaissance-period artist Martin Schongauer.

We found Schongauer’s attention to detail exquisite and his portrayal of the characters’ features to be very personal – you could really imagine what these people would be like if they stepped off the canvas and came to life.

There were other period works mixed in with Hongauer’s works.  The most intriguing one for me was an anonymous depiction of St. James and the Miracle of the Roast Chickens.  The story goes that a father whose son was unjustly hanged goes to Compostella (the Medieval religious center that honors St. James the brother of Jesus) and prays for his son, and when he returns, he is told that his son is alive.  Being at dinner, the man says “my son is no more alive than these chickens!”  Immediately, the roast chickens jump off the plate and dance around the room.  To us, this may sound ridiculous, but if you study medieval stories of miracles, so many of them are a lot like this.

At the end of this series of galleries is an entrance into what must have formerly been the convent’s chapel.  It is now home to the Isenheim Altarpiece.

The altarpiece is many layered, with a sculptured carved altar created by an artist named Niklaus Hagenhauer at its base.  Attached to this altar are several paintings created by Matthias Grunewald depicting different religious scenes on hinges, so that depending on which of these wings were opened or closed, the penitents attending mass might see one or more of these scenes, including the Crucifixion, the Nativity, a concert of angels, or the trials of St. Anthony.

For the sake of viewing the entirety of this masterpiece, the many layered paintings of the altarpiece are displayed separated, hanging in sequence down the middle of the room, so that you can see both sides of every canvas (since the paintings are double-sided).  On the wall next to the paintings, a small wooden model shows how it all fit together, and you can open and close the various wings to see what scenes are mixed with which.

Calling this collection of religious art a masterpiece doesn’t do it.  The serenity on the face of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child, contrasted with the disturbing beasts tormenting St. Anthony, show an artist of supreme talents working at the pinnacle of his art.  I’m sure that many people come to Colmar just to see this artwork, and I am also sure that they walk away completed satisfied.  It’s magnificent.

Displayed around the former chapel were also some representative art of the period, and some details of the chapel itself that have survived, such as a fresco of the Crucifixion.

After seeing that, the question was, does this museum contain anything else?  Well, they did have a temporary exhibit on cast and wrought iron – one of our favorite things since seeing the Musee Secq des Tournelles in Rouen last summer.  Much of the pieces were signs used to identify shops during the Renaissance.  Lots of fun stuff!

Also there were a couple small rooms that contained various artworks.  I enjoyed seeing the mold of Strasbourgeoise, the woman in typical Renaissance Strasbourg clothing, with the incredibly wide hat.  I had seen a woman depicted in similar clothing in Strasbourg’s Beaux Arts Museum earlier in the week, so I knew exactly what this was.

3 Sausages with Fries and Salad

The time was passing quickly, and it was already time for lunch.  Just a few blocks away, in the middle of the city, were several restaurants with outdoor seating.  We sat down at the Brasserie des Domicains.  I ordered a dish of three sausages with fries, pretty simple stuff, but good.  It was only after I began eating that I realized that one of the sausages was stuffed with cheese!  Well, the truth was, two sausages and lots of fries (and a green salad) was plenty to fill me up.

Just as we finished lunch, it began to drizzle.  As we walked a block to our next destination, the Dominican Church, the drizzle turned into a deluge.  We scampered into the church, along with a bunch of other folks escaping the rain.  When the docents inside the church announced that there was a small fee (I think like 2 Euros) to see the church, most of the people left, braving the rain.  But of course we remained.

Happily, this rain shower was short-lived, and when we left the church a little while later, the sun was already coming out.  So rather than visit more churches and such, we decided to make the most of the sunshine and good weather by walking to the area of Colmar known as “Little Venice” for a boat ride.  While it doesn’t look much like Venice to us, there is a canal here, bordered by old houses and some forested sections.  It reminded me more of taking a boat ride in Bruges, Belgium.

Anyway, we found a tavern (called Wistub La Krutenau) that sold tickets for the boat ride, and not long after, with the sun now blazing away, we went for the half-hour ride.  Ducking under the low bridges was fun, and the few minutes in the woodsy part of the ride were a respite from the urban feeling of the town.

Now, nothing to me goes so well with a hot afternoon as a nice bowl of cold ice cream (or sorbet for me).  And sure enough, about halfway back towards the middle of town, we found a nice place to get both, the Sorbetiere d’Isabelle.  They had many varieties of sorbet for me to choose from, and lots of intriguing ice cream desserts for Therese.  Indeed, I don’t usually include pictures of food that isn’t dairy free in my posts, but I thought her dessert was so attractive looking that some would enjoy seeing it.

With our bellies happily full of dessert, we walked through more of the fairytale streets of Colmar (especially Rue des Marchands).  Some of it seems a bit overdone for the sake of the tourists, but there are streets that give an authentic feeling of Medieval urban living.  And of course, you can find houses with the typical shutters with heart-shaped openings.  The story goes that houses with those shutters have eligible young ladies inside who are waiting for men to come and sweep them off their feet.  But I doubt the shutters are changed frequently enough to keep up with the love affairs of those houses’ residents!

The afternoon was passing by, but we had a little more time to kill before we had to steer in the direction of the train station.  I thought it would be fun to see their Covered Market, about which I had heard good things.

Ah, but what do you know?  This was the first thing we found that was closed for the holiday!  Oh well – it was nice seeing it from the outside.

My Colmar map showed several other noteworthy places to stop along our walk back to the train station.  So we headed that way, and took note of what we saw – mainly statues of local celebrities, created by Auguste Bartholdi, a resident of Colmar who we Americans know for having been the designer of our Statue of Liberty.  We also saw a large fountain in the middle of a lovely park whose sculptures we found less attractive than those made by Monsieur Bartholdi.

Not long after, we were on the train and back to Strasbourg.  We took the tram back to our hotel, and arrived there just in time to enjoy the “happy hour” snacks and drinks in our Hilton Hotel Strasbourg‘s executive lounge.  Ah, what a successful and lovely day!

Strasbourg Hilton Executive Lounge

Posted in Churches, Colmar, Countries, Dairy Free, Dessert, Food, France, German Food, Museums, Sausage, Sorbet, Strasbourg, Train Stations, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment