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An Alsace detour; the liberty connection, wine country, medieval towns.

An Alsace detour

Centennial year for the Statute of Liberty is a special time--not only for the countless sea-weary immigrants whose spirits have soared at its beacon of welcome, but for all enthusiasts of French-American friendship. The anniversary can serve as an excuse for a visit to Alsace, where Liberty's creator, Frederic Bartholdi, was born. And to take you from Paris to Strasbourg --the region's sophisticated but charmingly medieval gateway city-- there's an exciting new train.

The Alsatian cities of Strasbourg and Colmar are well worth visiting. Among Colmar's attractions is the Bartholdi Museum, in the sculptor's family home. Linking these towns, the 100-mile Route du Vin (Wine Road) takes you past the region's famous vineyards.

Alsace is especially delightful summer through early fall--festival time--as vineyards and hillsides go from green to gold and the October harvest approaches. Almost any weekend, there's a wine fair somewhere. For a list of wine-country festivities, check with Comite Interprofessionnel des Vins d'Alsace, 8 Place de Lattre de Tassigny, 68003 Colmar; or in France, call 89 410621.

Exploring the Route du Vin

Alsatian white wines are fruity and aromatic, but dry--unlike German whites. The seven varietals grown are Geuurztraminer, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir (made into a rose), Riesling (the most elegant), Sylvaner, and Tokay. Edelzwicker is a blend.

Starting near Strasbourg, in the north, the Route du Vin--really a number of small roads--takes up at Merlenheim, meanders south past Colmar, and continues as far as Thann, near Mulhouse.

The more important wine-growing towns are Ammerschwihr, Barr, Eguisheim, Ribeauville, and Riquewihr, but you can get a good glass of white wine anywhere along the route.

Some places, you can explore marked paths that take you into the heart of the vineyards and the tiny medieval villages that cluster about them. The towns with established "Paths through the Vineyards' are (north to south): Marlenheim, Traenheim, Obernai, Bourgheim, Epfig, Dambach-la-Ville, Turckheim, and Pfaffenheim.

If you're short on time or don't want to drive, you might try a one-day Europabus coach tour, available July and August only, from Strasbourg; or join the Route du Vin bus tour from Strasbourg run by French Railways. Book these at your Strasbourg hotel.

Getting to Alsace

You might ask your travel agent about a fly-and-drive package that includes Alsace. This way, your air transportation and hotels are definitely scheduled, and you have a rental car to use as you wish.

If you're coming from Paris, a train trip could be an adventure in itself. French National Railroads is experimenting with a new form of first-class train travel-- Nouvelle Premiere--now available between Paris and Strasbourg.

It offers old-fashioned comfort and service, with up-to-date differences. Seating cars have upholstered swivel chairs and lacquered fold-out tables for work or reading. Each car has its own steward--to bring you a drink from the bar, an appetizer, a newspaper.

The Nouvelle Premiere runs once daily in each direction: the ride takes about 4 hours. If you'd like to pass the journey with a superb meal prepared by a three-star Parisian chef, reserve a place in the dining car (dinner runs about $35 per person). One-way service costs $60. The normal fare (13 trains a day go back and forth between Paris and Strasbourg) is $42 for first class, $28 for second.

Photo: Folk pageantry and wine tasting combine at Alsatian festivals. In regional costume, she pours local Gewurztraminer to taste with kugelhopf, a yeast cake with raisins, nuts

Photo: In Strasbourg square, Germanic influences show in wood balconies, half-timber, high roofs; French, in shuttered windows, mansard roofs. Alsace (gray on map) is between Vosges Mountains and Rhine
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Alsace, France
Date:Jul 1, 1986
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