Friday, September 18, 2015

Meals on wheels: les Vosges, France

Interrupting my posts on Bordeaux and Biarritz for... another France post, but this time on les Vosges! All the first halves of my childhood summers were spent at my aunt's vacation home in the French Vosges region. So, when I made the plan to visit the Vitra Design museum's exhibition on African design (excellent!), we quickly decided to spent some days with my aunt in her house as well.

I had not been there in, I guess, ten years and while I remembered it to be beautiful, I had not remembered it to be this beautiful. The region of the Vosges is not the most prosperous one of France, but it is full of charme, and as my invented saying goes: it's like the French Black Forest except with even better food!
What I really like about the region is that it still has a very distinct character. You can't order cappuccino with almond or soy milk there because all you will get is a café alongé with regular milk. If it is myrtille season, you get everything myrtille, but you won't get a stupid New York cheese cake. It seems very authentic, as far removed from internatioanl hipsterdom as possible, in which every popular region, every large city has become more and more interchangeable.

Besides a million small museums of local history, there are also a couple of bigger museums, such as the musée de l'image in Épinal, a museum and production site of the popular picture sheets. I highly recommend a guided tour of the factory where the sheets are still being produced today like in the 19th century.

The lake in Géradmer is wonderful for swimming (just look at how clear the water is!), weather permitting, but you can also tour it with canoes, pedal boats or wind surfs.

With 1363 meters, le Hohneck is one of the highest summits in the Vosges. The view is stunning: on an early autumn day, you can see as far as the Black Forest! I recommend going there between 17:00 and 19:00 when the sun is at the right angle to colour everything golden. 

The lac des corbeaux was another popular spot we used to visit when I was a child. This year, summer was so dry that the lake had very little water. It's popular among fishermen, and since it only takes about 20 minutes to walk around the lake, it is a nice spot for a walk even for those people who are not so good on foot. 

We went to Géradmer twice, because the pâtisserie Schmitt was oh so good, that we were not thinking twice about coming back there for more cake. Their royal probably was the best one I've ever had because they really understood that the crunchy part of the royal should be as thick as possible.

After everyone had eaten at least one piece of cake (which is a polite way of saying everyone had more than one piece of cake), we continued to the jardin de Berchigranges, a beautifully sculpured, once private, now public garden that you best visit barefoot because the lawn is so soft, it would be a shame to wear shoes.

We also went all the way to the summit of the Grand Ventron where we enjoyed the nice views and paid a visit to the free range cows that look like straight out of a tourist leaflet. There are also many fermes in the regions that have goats and produce their own goat cheese. We chose to visit the small goat farm in the small village of Ventron called la chèvrerie de peute goutte where we ended up buying a delicious goat cheese! I wish we had bought more than just one piece, but hey, you always need a reason to return to a place, non?

We had so much good food that it feels really unfair to have to go back to a normal Berlin diet. Apparently, as a child, one summer all I ordered when we went out for dinner was trout, so on our last evening at a local ferme auberge type restaurant, I indulged in trout with almonds that was swimming in brown butter, nomnomnom!

The region is also known for skiing in the winter (apparently, we once went skiing there, but I do not have any memory whatsoever of that vacation...), and I guess it is only a matter of time until we will go there again in the winter for some powder snow (well, at least some snow...)!

copyright of all photos j.

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