AL­SACE AND CHAM­PAGNE Time to pour across France

The new Eurostar ser­vice puts Cham­pagne and Stras­bourg in easy reach, notes Anthea Ger­rie

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

AS THE NEW, faster Eurostar be­gins sched­uled ser­vices from St Pan­cras in less than two weeks, there are even more rea­sons to step off the train at Lille and board one of the high­speed French trains which open up east­ern France as never be­fore.

Firstly, it makes Al­sace, so rich in ar­chi­tec­ture, cui­sine and Jewish her­itage, ac­ces­si­ble. It has be­come hor­ri­bly re­mote (too far to drive) af­ter the scrap­ping of cheap flights from the UK. Se­condly, the new TGV ser­vice also brings Cham­pagne close enough for week­end trips. And fi­nally, what fash­ion­ista could re­sist a French train de­signed by Chris­tian Lacroix?

OK, so the red and pur­ple seats in the cou­turier’s sig­na­ture shades may be win­dow dress­ing, but they do mimic Club Class with their footrests and re­clin­ers, while in first class they even have power out­lets for charg­ing mo­biles and lap­tops.

But best of all, the new train brings Cham­pagne within three hours of Lon­don; Stras­bourg less than five. And th­ese are des­ti­na­tions at their most glo­ri­ous in au­tumn and win­ter.

Lus­cious white wines are the pride of east­ern France, and few wine trails are more re­ward­ing than those of Al­sace. It is not just the de­li­cious gewurtz­traminer, pinot gris and tokay grapes, but the rav­ish­ing pic­ture-book vil­lages which nes­tle in the vine-stud­ded hills be­tween Stras­bourg and Col­mar.

Of th­ese, Eguisheim and Riquewihr are par­tic­u­larly worth a de­tour, sur­rounded by no­table wine-mak­ers and blessed with ex­cel­lent restau­rants.

It was un­ex­pected — though quite pleas­ing — to dis­cover a Philippe Starck-style con­tem­po­rary in­te­rior within the choco­late box ex­te­rior of the Hostel­lerie du Chateau in Eguisheim on a re­cent visit, though the nearby La Grange­liere restau­rant was re­as­sur­ingly beamed in tra­di­tional Al­sace man­ner (and had su­perb fish).

On a golden au­tumn day, Col­mar at the south­ern end of the route des vins is a de­light­ful town to stroll, with a river run­ning through the mid­dle lined with me­di­ae­val build­ings. But the un­doubted star of Al­sace is Stras­bourg, seen at its best in frosty weather, not least be­cause of its leg­endary Christ­mas lights. Th­ese mar­vels, in­clud­ing a whole street of Bac­carat chan­de­liers, go up in Novem­ber, when it is still pos­si­ble to avoid the crush of tourists who

Vines in Eper­nay in the heart of France’s Cham­pagne coun­try, a re­gion now eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by faster Eurostar

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