A suggested itinerary in Alsace

Visit the Strasboug Astronomical Data Center (CDS)

Direct flights from Paris (1 hour) and many European cities to Strasbourg and Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg airports. By train from Paris to Strasbourg is 4 to 5 hours. By car, autoroute A4 Paris-Strasbourg is about 4 hours.

Summer, hot on the plains with thunderstorms, cooler in the hills. Spring, crisp and luminous. Fall, crisp, clear Indian summers, some fog. Winter, cold, with abundant snow on the Vosges Mountains.

Alsace specializes in hearty dishes like traditional choucroute garnie, with a fortress of thin Strasbourg sausages, ham and bacon perched on a mountain of sauerkraut, or steaming Backeoffe, a pork, lamb and beef casserole with sliced potatoes, steeped in wine. But with 28 Michelin-starred restaurants, there are imaginative alternatives: choucroute with salmon, smoked trout and perch; or with preserved duck; or even with snails and wild mushrooms. Other local dishes: foie gras (invented in Strasbourg); delicatessen meats; tarte flambée, a double-cream, onion, cheese and bacon Alsatian version of pizza; onion tart; irresistible fruit tarts with custard and cream; Kougelhopf cake and cheese pie.

The elegant Alsatian white wines (from seven grape varieties: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Sylvaner, Muscat, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and Tokay) are quite distinctive from the sweeter German wines with whom they share the same bottle shape. Discovering them is an aesthetic as well as a gastronomic pleasure in the picturesque villages of the Wine Road, where they can be tasted in the producers's cellars or by the glass in local bistros known as Winstubs.

Alsace has cycling, mountain biking, hiking and in winter excellent cross-country and downhill skiing in the Vosges. There are also walking tours of vineyards, river and canal cruises, and hot-air ballooning.

Best buys are regional pottery, the blue-on-gray stoneware of Betschdorf and the glazed kitchenware of Soufflenheim; fruit jams and eaux-de-vie (fruit brandies); foies gras; Grand Cru vintage wines; quality Alsatian fabrics and linens at La Maison du Costume Authentique in Strasbourg (11 bis, quai de Turckheim). You can find old designs made up as handkerchiefs, scarves and shawls at the Musée de l'Impression sur Etoffes in Mulhouse (3, rue des Bonnes-Gens). Arts et Collections d'Alsace in Colmar (1, place de l'Ancienne Douane) has copies of traditional Alsatian folk arts from museums. Strasbourg has a flea market and old-book market on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

February: Carnival parade in Hoerdt

March: Strasbourg International Film Festival

April to October: Sound and Light show, Strasbourg Cathedral

May: Fête de Pentecôte, Wissembourg, with folklore parade, dancing, horse racing

May to October: Round of the night watchman at 10 p.m., Turckheim

July: International Music Festival of Colmar Streisselhochzeit; traditional Alsatian wedding in Seebach

August: Wine Festival in Colmar; Procession of floral floats in Sélestat and Turckheim

September: Bugatti Festival in Molsheim

Most museums and shops outside of the major cities close for lunch between 12:00 and 2:00 p.m. Some smaller museums are open only in summer, or only on weekends in winter. Bring comfortable shoes with cobblestone streets in mind, and a raincoat.