Tuesday, May 24, 2022

YOU DID WHAT??? - 48° 27' 46" N 07° 28' 41" E

With Florence and her sister Claire in London in 1989

Florence and I have been friends since before she moved to Alsace for University.  From the time she has lived there, it has been a dream to renovate an old Alsatian house.

Glamming it up in Strasbourg 1992

The years rolled past, marriage, kids and life went on but that dream to renovate an old Alsatian house was still brewing in the back of her mind. 

This wine is nearly older than us! Bischoffsheim 2005

On each visit I made, we would flip through the real estate listings - no garden, too dilapidated, not in the right village, too big, too expensive...  And this trip was no exception.  My house searches were met with 'it is rubbish', 'out of my budget' and other such encouraging phrases. 

House search text messages

That was until I found a listing for a very cute house somewhere in Obernai. Without wanting to call the agent, we decided to spend the day exploring Obernai on our bikes to see if we could find it. Our methodology? Stick to the old part of town and turn left, turn left, turn left!  We meandered down narrow lanes, dead ends, through archways and along the Ramparts.  And remarkably, there it was!  The √† vendre sign still up, tucked away in a narrow lane just a hop, skip and jump from the centre of town!

Perfectly located, this 200 (ish) year-old house looked in reasonable shape.  The roof wasn't caving in, the walls looked solid and, best of all, the price was right!  Flo rang the realtor and we toured the house. It was in need of a full gut job, but oh, those lovely bones! With vision, some hard work and a bit of cash, could this be the dream, could this be the old Alsatian house?

Phone calls to realtors, bankers, friends who have renovated, trades persons who specialize in Alsatian houses, plumbers, builders... an offer was made, an offer was accepted.  

OMG Florence, what have you done?

Ground floor entry - just look at those gorgeous stairs

Kitchen with those beautiful original beams

Living room - that drop ceiling needs to go!

The attic, the third floor, the master suite?

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Vosges Mountains - 47° 59' 58" N 07° 05' 53" E

In the high mountain pastures of the Vosges above the town of Munster, there is a tradition of cattle grazing and cheese making.  On these high, steep pastures, the cows would graze on the lush grass, they would be milked and the cheese immediately processed and ripened. This was done in a marcairie. The macairie comprises of two buildings. One where the milking and cheese processing was done with a space for the storage of the ripening cheese, and one smaller cottage for the farmer to live. 

While the tradition of Munster cheese continues, the old macairies are being converted into mountain weekenders.  With huge thanks to Marie-Claude and Herv√©, we stayed for the weekend at their beautifully restored marcairie 'Kaltwasser', high above Munster. 

Originally for the cows to be milked and the cheese to be made, 
it is now the main building.
The cornerstone is marked "1881"

Originally where the shepherd (or cowherd) slept,
this is now a secondary guest house. 

The tiny cabins are wonderfully renovated into cosy accommodation, off the grid with solar power, a natural spring for water and no phone coverage.  It's a perfect place to relax. Access is via a narrow, winding mountain road. When this became impassable to the valiant Saxo, we hiked up the last four kilometres lugging our wine and food on our backs. 

Hiking in the last 4 km

Common room and kitchen in the main cabin

Perfect place to laze and watch the rain

Marie-Claude, Flo's Mum

Kaltwasser is a wonderful base from which to explore the hiking trails of Petit Ballon, the highest peak of the area.  We snugged up in front of the wood stove watching the rain, hiked over the spongy trails enjoying the breathtaking views and, being France, drank and ate and drank.  


The fences have little turnstiles to allow you through

Steep hiking but the views are worth the effort

Well marked trails

Spongy underfoot - like hiking on pillows!

We made it! 

Blossoms and daffodils abound

The view from the Loo!