Whenever I go for walks here I imagine dinosaurs erupting from the lakes amidst a flurry of suddenly airborne waterfowl. The Petite Camargue http://www.petitecamarguealsacienne.com/web/ is a nature reserve close to the Swiss border in the Alsace. Easy jet offers reasonable flights from the UK to Basel and in a very short time you can be sitting in the Alsace enjoying a whole new life experience. It’s a great place to get away to.
There is a special kind of peace to be found in wandering through the Petite Camargue woods, looking across the ponds and deep into small rivers so clear as to appear magical, even if you know that the fresh springs welling up into them are the reason for the water’s purity.
This lovely place is a haven for bird watchers, for plant lovers and the feeling one has, that the flora and fauna have been here forever untouched, and will remain so forever untouched means its’ a special place to be at one with oneself and nature, far from the hassles of day-to-day life.
And after your walk along the brooks and among the flowers and after you have observed wild ducks, geese, swans and many other birds I cannot name and if you are feeling a little thirsty, and a bit peckish, then you could do worse than to repair to the lovely Au Lion D’Or restaurant in Rosenau
http://www.auliondor-rosenau.com/, where you will be welcomed like royalty. And while you sit and sip your aperitif you can watch the chef pottering through the garden picking fresh herbs for your dinner. We found the Lion D’Or by chance, we got lost on a walk through the Petite Camargue one day and we were thirsty. Walking into the nearby village of Rosenau we found the restaurant and finding the door open, we walked in hoping to get a drink. Although they were closed the lady of the house seeing our distress went to the kitchen, came back with a bottle of mineral water saying here – please have it, it’s just been opened. Ms Baumlin didn’t even sell it to us, a true, old-fashioned hostess in a truly family run restaurant. Where great quality and hospitality are very obviously the guiding principles. She was so lovely as she apologized that the restaurant was closed for another hour, that we booked a table for later that night. And enjoyed a very memorable meal. The food is French (of course), and covers both typical Alsatian regional specialties as well as dishes from farther afield – saltimbocca for example, prepared with sage from the garden. Naturally there is foie gras, snails and many wild herbs but also fish and sea-food dishes. Desserts are lovely, beautifully served, I had a pale green rhubarb soufflé once served in a large rose decorated English tea-cup on a saucer, and accompanied by a simple crème frâiche ice-cream. Chef Theo Baumlin makes some really creative home-made ice-creams for example basil crème fraîche ice-cream served with liqueur marinated melon and nectarine “carpaccio”, see picture below. If the promise of a wonderful garden, the scent of roses, the humming of bees and a view of a herb garden beneath a weeping willow tree, don’t capture your fancy, then the image of a slightly rotund chef pottering around in his chef’s whites and proudly showing you his sage harvest, the creative and beautifully presented food, and the fact that the wine list is a joy might. There are more than 400 bottles in the cellar. And if you like discovering new wines, or you like surprises, you can select a menu and then to let the Lion D’Or staff suggest the perfect pairings by the glass for you. The prices are extremely reasonable for both food and wine and we discovered a spectacular Gewurztraminer on our last trip there: Gewurztraminer Zinnkoepfle Richard Ebelmann 19 Rue Sébastien 68570 Soutzmatt, as well as a very nice Chablis and a lovely Riesling by Braun F 19 Grand Rue 68500 Orschwihr. So good were the wines in fact that I have started trying to hunt them all down, sadly not all are easily available but Madame Baumlin, again demonstrating a true and admirable customer centric spirit and a great sense for business has offered to organize them for me. Many of the wines come from Alsatian vineyards – and soon we hope to go on a wine-tasting tour on a sleepy sunny lazy summer afternoon. The only problem is that we will have to agree who will drive!