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Travel & Holidays in later life


Horizons d’Alsace is a group of ten hotels all individually owned and run by families.

They got together as an association several years ago to market their area and now organise tailor made holiday itineraries for walkers, cyclists, golfers, wine and food enthusiasts.

Moira McCrossan and Hugh Taylor travelled with them in September 2011.



The wine route of Alsace winds along the slopes of the Vosges from Marlenheim to Thann. On mellow September days we drove through beautiful valleys with grapes hanging on straight rows of vines scratched across the hillside. We watched the pickers with their baskets bending to the task as have generations before, while the tractors and trailers busied themselves to and fro. The pace slowed as we travelled through the beaux villages of Alsace, narrow cobbled streets, mediaeval houses festooned with flowers and of course, in every one, the caves of the vineyards, some first cultivated by the Romans more than 2000 years ago.

Travel Facts

To slow the pace further and to enjoy this glorious countryside close up, we lingered around the valley of Kayserberg, where Horizons d’Alsace make everything easy. The ten hotels are all within a day’s hike of one another and they know and love their countryside well. We were driving ourselves, but they will pick you up from the airport as well as transporting your baggage between hotels, while you walk or bike any of the hundred or so routes that they can show you. They wanted us to enjoy their country as much as they do and generously shared their knowledge.


We were able to choose our itinerary before we came, but Horizons are so flexible that it is easy to change your mind. You can choose to stay on at one hotel instead of moving or change from biking to walking or a wine tasting. It is hard to believe how much choice there is in this small area, you can even golf if you want to. The hotels vary from the 16th century convent, with half timbered walls and quirky shaped rooms of L’Abbaye d’Alspach, within ancient walls to the modern Les Alisiers above Poutroie with our glass fronted room perched above the panorama of the hills we had just climbed. From there our hosts took us to visit the cheese farm of Pierre Velein in an isolated farm house on a neighbouring hill. This is a one man and woman business, where the cheese is made every day by age old methods from the milk of their 24 cows. They explained to us that it tastes different every day, which we discovered when we sampled it.

Still higher in the Vosges hills at Bonhomme is the Hotel de la Poste, which is perfect for serious mountain bikers with 100km of trails right at the door and knowledgeable advice about gradients, timings and route choices. Although we prefer more leisurely cycling routes with time to stop and sample the wines as we go.



When we stayed at the historic Hotel de L'Ange at Niedermorschwihr, we were introduced to the Boxler family, who can trace their wine making business back to 1672. The cave was dimly lit and old, with a musty smell of wine from ancient barrels that have been storing their wines for over a hundred years. Produce which is all grown in the fields around the village, as it has been for generations. As we cycled these quiet backroads, we really appreciated the sounds and sights of the harvest in a way that is just not possible from a car. The roads here are perfect for cycling - quiet, picturesque and with gradients to suit all levels of fitness.



Our next stop was at Les Remparts in the lovely village of Kaysersberg. I think this little gem was our favourite place. It has the winding mediaeval streets and half timbered houses of so many villages along the wine route of Alsace, which make the whole area so enchanting. But this is not a sleepy corner preserved for posterity, rather it is a vibrant community, bursting with life. We walked in the moonlight to the restaurant, to find the streets still buzzing and the restaurant full and still serving stragglers like us. Our wonderful hostess Mme Keller had phoned ahead to be sure that there was still room at the inn for us.

 

And that is the joy of travelling around the hotels of Les Horizons. It is the can do attitude and the warmth of the welcome from the patrons. They are all family owned businesses, they have all been friends for even longer than they have been partners and it shows in the ease and comfort of all the arrangements. The hotels are all different. Many have swimming pools and fitness centres, while others are fascinating historic buildings but in all of them the food and service are superb.

 



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