Friday, July 17, 2009


Stage 13 of the 2009 Tour de France begins in Vittel and ends 124.3 miles later in Colmar; a quaint town with a mixture of French and German known as the Alsace-Lorraine Region. We visited Colmar in 2002. We’ll have some mountains today for the first time since our three days in the Pyrenees Mountains.

RAIN dampened the action but didn’t stop an early break away by 7 riders that quickly reduced to three. For a long time there were three….then there were two….and finally in the last stretch there was only the German Heinrich Haussler! A 25 year old born in Australia of German parents; he returned to Germany and has lived there for years. Today he took his first Stage victory 4 minutes ahead of the second place rider; this is his third year of riding on the Tour de France. Colmar is less than twenty miles from his home in Germany.

No serious attacks today, probably because of the weather, all the main leaders remain the same except for the loss of Levi Leipheimer who broke his wrist yesterday and is now out of the race!

The leaders are:

#1: Rinaldo Nocentini

#2: Alberto Contado +.06

#3: Lance Armstrong +.08

#4: Bradley Wiggins +.46

#5: Andreas Kloden +.54

The Jerseys today:

Top Team Overall: Team Saxo Bank

Yellow Jersey: Rinaldo Nocentini

Green Jersey: Thor Hushovd

Polk-a-dot Jersey: Franco Pellizotti

White Jersey: Tony Martin

Today I thought that I’d print out a journal from our visit to Colmar in 2002 to give you a taste of the region and possibly entice you to visit there someday……

September 10th, 2002 Colmar, France

Bonjour Amis et Famille…. September 10th, 11th & 12th

September 11th: As you can see by the salutation, we’re enjoying being back in France again. Yesterday it rained most of the day, gentle but steady. After playing with different things on the computer for about an hour I finally tried a different number that was at a very low speed and it connected and stayed! So, we got the journal about Switzerland and the cow country sent! We then checked out the lay of the land….a truly spectacular postcard perfect old city. Not a straight street in town, they change names every few blocks and many are pedestrian traffic only; but worth the extra effort. We’re staying at a Comfort Inn on the outskirts of town. Have to drive to the sites but nice to save the Euros after Switzerland. That was VERY expensive! And the conveniences are more modern. Had a lovely traditional Alsace meal of choucroute garni in the hotel dining room and Jim ordered his favorite meat: duck.

Up this morning and out the door early for our last trip to the Laundromat. Had fun conversing with a mother and daughter who travel for a month every summer in Europe. They live in Minnesota; mother is a retired real estate broker and daughter is a teacher (going back later than usual this trip). We had lots in common and spent the time discussing our travels and the different people that we have met. The time flew for me and Jim had fun exploring the town in his rain gear…yes, it’s still coming down with spells of clear in between.

We spent the afternoon walking the town of Colmar. First we went to La Petite Venice, which is a canal that meanders through the old town. We rode with two German couples in a flat-bottomed boat powered by a battery operated fishing trawling motor. The guide only spoke French but the view was so great we didn’t need the stories as we went under stone bridges so low that we had to duck our heads. On one house you could still see the Latrine room that emptied into the canal (only for looks nowadays!) This town is almost entirely half-timbered buildings that have been here for centuries. The town didn’t have any damage from the wars, so it’s all real as opposed to rebuilt after the wars.

Then we went to the Tanners’ Quarters and found a Creperie for lunch. Mine had thin slices of ham, cheese and topped with a sunny side up egg in the middle. They make a wonderful light lunch. Especially when washed down with a beer! Afterwards we visited the churches and a Museum in town. The Museum had some unusual Altar pieces and one entitled Isenheim Altarpiece by Grunewald had the face of Christ; in the words of Rick Steves: “a psychedelic explosion of Resurrection joy…is the spiritual equivalent of jumping from the dentist’s chair directly into a Jacuzzi”. Jim had seen this image used in a television program once and wondered where it came from. Finally came back to the hotel for the newscast of the 9/11 Remembrances. They were carried live on almost every channel on TV. Had hoped that I would hear some church bells ringing in town but didn’t.

September 12th:

Spent the whole day touring the “Route Du Vin” and we were surrounded by vineyards of all different types of grapes on every road we took! Grapes are definitely their one and only crop in this area. It will be the same in Beaune. Contrary to recommendations, we didn’t tour the wineries but instead spent our day in the picturesque little towns that dot the hillsides in between the vineyards. We went to the best one first but even then it was hard to stop taking photos all day. I’ve taken 225 photos in the last three days. Good thing I use a digital camera. One of the things that we noticed was that many of the vineyards had a full size Crucifix at the corner of their plot of land. Interesting that there are so many religious icons everywhere in Europe and yet we don’t see that many young adults in the churches on Sunday. My daughter Mary would say, “Mom, there’s more to religion than attendance at Sunday Mass!”

Our very first stop this morning was up the hill in the forest to walk a quarter of a mile in to see three old Chateau Ruins. Could have been a great view but it was hazy from all the moisture in the air. Rained all day yesterday on and off, today was beautiful but cloudy. Couple interesting things; first we saw a wonderful sign on the road going up that showed a diagram of a car with a masked man dipping into it. I think they were telling us to beware of auto burglary in the area. Then when we arrived at the ruins there were two young men in costume. One was dressed all in white with a devil’s mask and a white plastic space gun, he was sitting inside one of the towers in the doorway. Allowed me to take his photo but otherwise was silent. Strange was the only explanation.

Next we went to Eguisheim; I couldn’t stop taking photos. First thing we saw was a 1000-pound stork’s nest at the peak of the church tower. Flowers were in every window and ledge in the half-timbered buildings. Buildings were painted all different colors. Baskets of flowers were hanging on light posts, and every other conceivable open space that could hold a blossom. We finally had to leave as we had lots of other villages to visit today. We stopped for lunch at a local Cafeteria along the highway. Knew the food was excellent as it was full of locals. We were right!

Then we stopped at Kayersberg, the birthplace and home of Albert Schweitzer, another extremely picturesque village in every detail. Saw another stork’s nest at the peak of a tower but this time it also had a live stork nesting. She followed us with her eyes as we walked around the base taking photos. Then at the bridge we saw a fly fisherman in the stream. Walked around to another bridge near him and took video’s of his catching two different trout within a few minutes. The first was about ten inches and the second one had to be sixteen to twenty inches in length. He had a wonderful way with his rod and the line whipped through the air like strokes on a canvas creating a wonderful visual image.

Our next stop was in the village of Sigolsheim. We drove up through the vineyards to a World War II cemetery for French Soldiers. On the bluff overlooking the valley they had built a Memorial to the American Soldiers who helped the French liberate Alsace. Then on to our last village of Riquewihr that Rick Steves said was “overly picturesque”. Had to see what that would look like compared to the others we’d seen today. Yes, larger and also very picturesque, but we didn’t feel that it was more so than the others we’d seen. The exception being that it was absolutely packed with about ten tour buses. It was impossible to take a photo without a dozen or more tourists in front of you. So overall, we much preferred Eguisheim and Kayersberg.

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