When: August 2017
Why Germany: We’d done most of everything we’d wanted to do locally and in southern Germany and Austria (recaps here, here, here and here), and we had one full day left for exploring. The French border is 90 minutes away from Stuttgart, and just beyond the border is the Alsace wine region, which is home to some of the cutest fairy tale villages ever. It’s definitely worth the trip – even for just one day.
The Trip: Of course, driving between the adorable villages and wine tasting was not going to be on the agenda, but right along the trail of towns is a monkey conservatory, nicknamed “Monkey Mountain,” where you can walk along a path and feed monkeys. This also got rave reviews from co-workers, so it seemed like the perfect option. Not many children will get to say they fed monkeys on a mountain in France.
La Montagne des Singes, or Monkey Mountain, is home to 200 Barbary macaques – Old World monkeys from Northern Africa. According to the website, there are less than 8,000 monkeys in the world, and this conservatorship helps protect this endangered species.
When you visit, there are very important rules to be followed:
- You can buy tickets online, which is of course always preferred
- You get one handful of popcorn at the entrance
- The visit itself only takes about an hour
- No other food is allowed but the popcorn
- To feed the monkeys, you can’t get close, but instead reach out with an open palm
I’m not going to lie – I was figuring this would be a fun, quick stop for the kids, but then we’d move on to one of the towns. But this stop is awesome. The monkeys are adorable and feeding them is so much fun. I would go back and do it again. (Except now, in the time of COVID, the park is reopening but no feeding is allowed for fear of spread.)
I was actually a little sad when the tour ended and almost wanted to go again. But it was time to head to the next town. The normal go-to is Strasbourg, which isn’t technically on the Alsace Wine Route, but is the largest city near it and it is absolutely adorable. However, there were a lot of tiny villages closer to Monkey Mountain, and I picked the one my mom tried to go to on our Christmas market tour but couldn’t get close with all of the traffic.
I picked Riquewihr (Rick-wa-veer), which has been named one of the most beautiful villages of France, and walking in – it’s not hard to see why. The brightly-colored timbered homes and cobblestones and macarons and macaroons and all things wine – it is hard not to love this town. Or at the very least, feel like you are walking through Belle’s village.
Final Impressions: This was a great way to end the trip – Monkey Mountain was awesome and Riquewihr is as charming as ever. The Alsace may not be the most talked about area of France, but it might be one of the most charming, or if nothing else, you may feel like your childhood Fairy Tales have come to life. I love driving the wine route, because each village is beautiful and unique.