Fifty kilometres south of Strasbourg set in the foothills of the Vosges mountains, Ribeauville, is a magical French town in the region of Alsace-Lorraine. On the drive into Ribeauville, one would be forgiven for feeling a tinge of disappointment as a casino comes up on the left and a children’s amusement space with bright lights leaves one to wonder if the French is somehow lost in Ribeauville. Once the path of the town starts slowly winding its way up into the hills the early impressions are left behind as one majestic café leads to another, each as atmospheric as the last, the town certainly seems to come into its own while the three castles high in the hills above cast a medieval aura over Ribeauville.
Ribeauville has gained its popularity over the years for being one of the famous wine producing towns of Alsace-Lorraine. Vineyards surround the town and small independent wine cellars spring up along the side streets of Ribeauville. The classic French picture of bread, cheese and wine is what one experiences across this town. As I walked through the streets I could not help but feel transported to another world that existed in another epoch. The beautiful medieval architecture adding a mystic touch, musicians in the centre square lighting up the morning with classical music and the formidable Château de Saint-Ulrich overlooking the town serving as a testament to history and the legends of the town. Only adding to the surreal atmosphere of the town during the summer are the storks who seem to have taken a certain liking to Ribeauville. It’s not often that one sees families of storks living in a small town but here Ribeauville one will see at least three different nests built at the top of houses in the centre of the town. The stork is a bird that has given birth to legends since the medieval times across Europe and it seems almost natural that they find Ribeauville to be their perfect habitat.
Whether you want to hike in the Vosges mountains, spend an afternoon wine tasting or savour France’s culinary delights, a stop at Ribeauville is a must, being just ten kilometres away from Colmar it is easily accessible and an integral part of the Alsace-Lorraine wine route. The locals were absolutely amazing, even without much knowledge of French I could feel the warmth and openness every time I did interact with a person in the town.
Walk up to Château de Saint-Ulrich, at the base of the hill the paths diverge, one going right through the forests and shade, a calmer and easier climb with the gradient being low and constant throughout, to the left the climb is in the sun and slightly steeper. Getting to the top and standing well above Ribeauville with the Black Forest in Germany over the hills on the horizon is a beautiful sight. The Jean Sipp wine cellar is one I can recommend, they have a range of white wines from dry to sweet, a few spirits made from different fruits and a few variations of Pinot Noir, the signature red wine which they produce.
A Passage Through Time
The romance that surrounds France has a definite ground for it. Whether it be the famous line sung by Maggie Reilly where she seems bent on the illusion of France never being realised, with the words ‘You are never going to Get to France’ or in the Ballad of Lucy Jordon by Marianne Faithfull where she laments that ‘At the age of 37 she realised she would never ride through Paris in a sports car with the warm wind in her hair’.
Whatever it comes down to the romantic air that France seems to have built over centuries never seems to abate. There is sound reason behind though, from the finesse of their accent to the touch added to a fine aged Pinot Noir, France chose long before we were born where its ideals lay. Their lives circle on the lines of their delight and for that, they live, whether that be a sight of a splendid Chateaux, a morning croissant, or a far-away cage, the French have their desires and the manner in which they feed those is something of a silent spectacle.
It is in the mundane that France falls away and always will but no one goes to France for the mundane and in that their righteous glory will stand forever. In Ribeauville that finesse can be tasted and in Paris, indulged.