A foodie day in France: Sweet tales from Colmar

As I write I'm tucking into the last of the treats Tim and I brought back from a recent trip to Colmar in France. It's a spice loaf with honey and almonds and, like everything else we bought, mouthwateringly good. If there's one thing you do when you go to France, it seems to be put on a few pounds in sugar. But I'm certainly not complaining.

It took us just one-and-a-half hours to drive to Colmar, a beautifully preserved medieval town with colourful half-timbered houses propping one another up. It is laced with canals and narrow alleyways, which we delighted in exploring. Wisteria hung from terraces, while the first geraniums were starting to bloom on the riverbanks. We went on a 'patisserie crawl', calling at one bakery after another. We sampled apple-filled brioche, chocolate eclairs, coffee eclairs and hazelnut kugelhopf (a light cake with a well in the centre).

There doesn't seem to be anything the region hasn't made its own. Among other specialties is wine (Colmar is on the Alsace Wine Route; we came back with pure pressed grape juice - non-alcoholic but should come with a sugar warning) and pate with pork and white wine - yes, we bought some of that too. Somehow, come lunchtime, we were hungry again and dined at the Maison Rouge on Rue des Ecoles. It had a slight air of a brothel from outside with tinted glass windows, but inside was Parisian brasserie to a T. I enjoyed creamy onion tart (another local speciality) with regional asparagus, while Tim had steak with 'pommes frites'.

After lunch, we went on trip in a so-called 'barque' (little wooden boat) along the Lauch (leek) river in the Little Venice area. The little river is apparently so-called because a farmer on his way to market by boat once dropped all his leeks into the water. The guided tour showed that the area in fact has nothing of Venice, but a unique charm of its own.

All the facades we passed beneath were painted different pastel shades - our guide said there was a local understanding that you could not have the same coloured house as your neighbour. Shutters were quaint with hearts cut into them - apparently this was once a sign that the girl living there was looking for a husband. We had to duck our heads to pass beneath low bridges, fell silent while passing one area where residents had demanded a 'silence zone' and were surrounded by such dense greenery and sounds of birdsong that we could have been anywhere but at the heart of a bustling town. Tour over, it was almost time to leave.

We had just one more stop: to a little tea house where we sipped orange-scented green tea and indulged in one more sweet treat: a creamy chocolate cake with biscuit base. Well, there could hardly have been a better way to see out the day, could there?
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