If You Like Beauty and the Beast – Visit Colmar, France

Over the past few months it’s been almost impossible to avoid advertisements for the upcoming live-action Beauty and the Beast movie.  This is not a complaint, we love Disney even though we are much too old for it.  It does make us miss past trips to France though, and one place in particular:  Colmar. 

History of Colmar

Colmar is a town in the Alsace region of France, but it was not always a French town.  Founded in the 9th century it was a “German” town for over 800 years before being taken over by the French in 1673.  German is in quotation marks above because it didn’t officially become a nation until the late 1800s.  Before that it was a collection of constantly changing states.

Over the next 400 years Colmar and the surrounding regions went back and forth between the 2 countries.  Both France and Germany coveted this area, and can you blame them?  I mean look at this place:

Obviously a lot happened between the creation of Colmar and it’s capture, but we like to keep our history lessons light and breezy.  One phrase did make us laugh as we were doing our research though, so we’re addressing it.  Emperor Charles the Fat held a diet in 884.  Hilarious.  In this particular case the word “diet” is defined as  a formal legislative assembly as opposed to eating for weight loss.  Which is too bad really.  If Charles had organised the other kind of diet he may have ended up with a more flattering nickname.

Not that it’s hard to understand why someone would get fat in Colmar. Or France in general.

Food in Colmar

Please forgive us for stating a fact that is a surprise to no one:  the French love food.  In France great chefs are celebrities.  The best ingredients are used and everything is prepared to perfection.  The sauces are deep and complex, the pastries are divine, and the snails….are still gross.

Escargot aside, the creation of food has been elevated to an art form in France.  Both in taste and appearance.  In Colmar this goes a step further, the restaurants themselves are works of art.

To be fair to restaurants in other cities, where else can you buy or lease commercial property that looks like this?

Canals and Flowers

The colorful medieval buildings are unbelievable to see.  As Colmar was largely unaffected by the world wars much of it is original and hundreds of years old.   The homes and stores truly wow in Little Venice around the canals.  A walk through the district makes you feel like you are French peasant in a simpler time and place.  Of course the illusion fades when you forget the word for spoon and the waitress is pretending to be confused when you mime eating soup to get one.  Then again miming, like food preparation, is on a different level in France.

The people of Colmar are obviously proud of their town.  All the streets are clean and the landscaping is immaculate.  There are flowers everywhere and it really adds to the magic.  It really is beautiful on a level that seems almost artificial, but this is a real place with real people.  They go about their lives in a calm relaxed fashion, savoring their surrounding, their food and their wine.

What a wonderful way to live.

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