Increasingly tourists and travel agents are considering the environmental implications when making decisions about future holiday plans. Generally, this means looking for substitutes to air travel and, when the TGV Est high speed train link (www.tgvesteuropeen.com) opens on June 10th, holiday makers to the region of Alsace in France will have their own environmentally viable alternative.
A train journey from London to Strasbourg currently takes approximately eight hours but, from June, this will be reduced to four and a half hours. As well as a time saving, the train journey will produce less than one third of the total CO2 emitted by an aeroplane on an equivalent journey.
Environmental awareness needn’t stop once the destination is reached! Alsace contains a wide variety of ‘green’ accommodation, varying from hotels to lodges and farms, which offer the perfect location for an eco-holiday.
Hôtels au naturel …Alsace has 10 of the 20 Hôtels au naturel that are found throughout France. These hotels must meet three main criteria to achieve the Hotel au naturel classification. They are: respect of the local region and its heritage, preservation of traditional working practices (including local sourcing of products and materials) and preservation of the environment (e.g. use of renewable energy technologies, waste recycling, preservation of water, reduction of noise and light pollution).
Examples include: Villa Rosa (www.villarosa.fr) – a pretty hotel in southern Alsace whose owner, Anne Rose, is a qualified nature guide who can provide guided walks through the surrounding countryside (including great mushroom searches!) or tales by the fireside in the evenings; La Rochette (www.larochette-hotel.fr) – a quiet hotel in the Vosges Mountains that provides exceptional seasonal food sourced only from local producers; Le Cheval Blanc (www.hotel-cheval-blanc.fr) – an impressive traditional Alsatian house in the perfect location from which to explore the Vosges du Nord national park.
Les Gîtes Panda …..The World Wildlife Fund, in association with Gîtes de France and the National Parks Association, has created a classification for gîte accommodation called Les Gîtes Panda. This award recognises lodgings that actively preserve their surrounding environment and also provide education for visitors. All Gîtes Panda contain a trunk with guides on how to identify the local fauna and flora, maps, information on the local history and measures taken to preserve the environment, games and activities for children and two pairs of binoculars!
Within Alsace these gîtes are located close to nature trails and footpaths within the Ballons des Vosges and the Vosge du Nord national parks. Les Hautes Huttes (www.hautes-huttes.com) near Orbey is situated in a beautiful mountain setting with an organic kitchen garden and wood burning stove.
Les fermes-auberges…There are over 50 fermes-auberges in Alsace. These are traditional working farms that are almost totally self sufficient and provide home-produced organic food and, in most cases, accommodation. The farms are situated in the Vosges Mountains and often actively encourage holiday makers to muck in. The ferme-auberge du Christlesgut (www.christlesgut.com) for example, is a dairy farm that allows visitors to help with the milking process and the making of cheese and butter. The farm also lets children help prepare a meal, using ingredients that they have sourced during the day. Other farms raise the magnificent Vosgean cattle or ducks, goats, pigs and geese.
More details on eco-holidays in Alsace can be found at www.tourism-alsace.com
It is now possible to buy discounted rail tickets within France up to 90 days before travelling. Rail Europe offer cheap, ‘Prems’ tickets for those able to book in advance. Prices start at £11.50 for a Paris – Strasbourg ticket by Corail and £19.00 for the same journey by TGV.Follow and Share with Jetsettersblog.