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Kaysersberg, Alsace – 2012

12 Days of French in the vineyards

From the 24th September to the 5th October 2012, 16 students, accompanied by the French Moments team, met in Kaysersberg, Alsace to start the 12 day Intensive Course.

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The 12 days were filled with 30 hours of French lessons and combined with excursions and activities, to discover the local region and practise speaking French.

We had extra local French people come on the excursions to give a better opportunity for practising French and some special visitors for some classes, including a visit from La Poste:

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The atmosphere was great and we think you will agree that it was a memorable course where everyone went away with not only a better level of French, but new friends and a greater understanding of the Alsace region.

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Students chose between two levels for the lessons: Beginner or the Conversation Level. The Beginners followed a fairly intensiive, but fun, course where each day there were new themes, vocabulary and simple grammar structures. The course gives an overall introduction to speaking French and is all about applying it straight away whilst in the country. “Mission Possibles” were set to get students into Kaysersberg and practising what they’d learnt on the locals!

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The conversation level was for students who had an advanced enough level to follow a conversation in French and the course was designed to develop, not only conversation skills but listening and reading. Each morning there was a section on the local culture, history and traditions of the local region, in this case, Alsace, and then a second part where the focus was on more general French and conversation.

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Some of the most magical memories over the 12 days were the cooking workshop and river boat cruise in Strasbourg, the gastronomic meals in the Château d’Isenbourg and the final night at Le Moréote, not forgetting the treasure hunt with the lovely surprise at the end for the winning team. (Go the Bretzel team!) The walk in the Vosges mountains and discovering the beautiful medieval villages along the Alsace wine route were all highlights.

Kaysersberg

Kaysersberg is made up of just 3,000 inhabitants, located in the east of France, 10km from Colmar where the TGV train can reach Paris in just 3 hours.

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Kaysersberg is on the scenic Alsace wine route and is overlooked by the Vosges mountains. Alsace is on the border with Germany and has a very rich history.

Kaysersberg is a delightful small medieval town, which remains personal with a strong sense of community. There are lots of restaurants, wine cellars, local producers and their shops to explore and the architecture is intriguing. With the coloured medieval houses and the lush green vineyards, you almost feel like you are in a fairytale!

Strasbourg

Strasbourg is the capital of Alsace and has a population of more than 470,000 people with its suburbs. It is home to the European Parliament, the Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe.

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Located just across the Rhine river from Germany, it has a rich history and has emerged even stronger from the two world wars, becoming a symbol of a unified Europe.

The old town is a gem waiting to be discovered and a cruise along the River Ill is a must.

Strasbourg is a picturesque town and has much to offer with its 142m tall Gothic cathedral and large centre filled with beautiful shopping streets and monuments.

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Colmar

At the heart of the Alsace Wine Route, Colmar is very well located and while it may not be the capital of Alsace, it remains one of its top tourist destinations.

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The city has a rich architectural and cultural heritage that is impressive for its size. Its numerous half-timbered houses neatly lining the cobblestone streets and walkways, its peaceful canals giving it its reputation of the “Little Venice of Alsace”, its museums rich in altarpieces and artistic masterpieces of Gothic and Renaissance art, and its delicious restaurants offering some of the best cuisine in the region, are all the assets the city needs to perfect and maintain its international reputation.

L’Écomusée d’Alsace

L’Ecomusée d’Alsace is the largest open air museum in Europe. It is located north of Mulhouse and about 30 minutes from Colmar.

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It shows Alsatian life the way it used to be a 100 years ago and has original houses and live craftsmen that show the trades and occupations of the local people from that period. There is a farm, a school, a blacksmith, a distillery, and lots of other buildings and historical objects to look at.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

Dominating the Plain of Alsace at 757m high, the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle stands out with its imposing pink sandstone structure.

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Ideally situated, the fortified castle offers a panoramic view over the Plain of Alsace and the Black Forest. It played a strategic role in the region’s rich history and is now visited by more than 500,000 people each year.

The beautiful villages along the Alsace Wine Route

We visited several villages along the Alsace wine route: Kaysersberg, Riquewihr, Hunawihr, Éguisheim, Kientzheim and Ammerschwihr.

These gems of the wine country are often made up of old medieval ramparts, winding alleyways that bloom with magnificent geraniums, winstubs, vaults, half-timbered houses, and medieval churches. Many town names have become synonymous with rich traditions, friendliness, prosperity and great wines.

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Benefiting from local microclimates, these areas are bordered to the West by the natural barrier of the Vosges, and to the East by the Rhine Plain which has its own large natural border: the Black Forest in Germany. The Romans who introduced wine in Alsace and in the Upper Rhine region recognised the privileged position of the foot of the Vosges, bathed in sunlight and protected from wind and rain by the mountains. The region around Colmar is recognised as one of the sunniest in France and its average levels of precipitation are the lowest of all of France’s vineyards.

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Once the Romans had left, it was only under the influence of monastic orders during the Middle Ages that viticulture enjoyed a new boom and Alsace‘s reputable wines were exported to Nordic countries via the Rhine. In the 16th century, the Alsatian vineyard was twice as large as it is today.

The Route des Crêtes of the Vosges

The first step of the journey was at the Gazon du Faing, a vast, protected, grassy stretch. We got off the coach in the restaurant’s parking area and climb by foot to the summit of the Gazon du Faing (45 mins, with a gentle slope). Arriving at the rocks, the panorama is quite simply superb despite the rain!

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The Alsace Plain were at our feet. On the horizon we were able to distinguish the blue line of the Black Forest in Germany.

The Route des Crêtes was created fairly recently. Before becoming a tourist itinerary it was devoted to the military and strategic cause. It was during the First World War that the French High Command decided to create a road which would follow the ridge of the Vosges, thus allowing easier access to various Lorraine and Alsatian valleys on both sides of the Vosges. This project allowed for the faster movement of French military troops and their war material in the face of the German opponent.

On the way back to Kaysersberg, we stopped at the little town of Munster where we saw many white storks standing on chimneys!

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We would like to thank our incredible team and all the students who came on the course, who made these 12 days so special. We can’t wait for the next adventure! Pierre and Rachel Guernier

Featured image: French Intensive Course in Kaysersberg – 2012 © French Moments