Enjoy the sights, smells, tastes of Le Palais du Pain d’Epices, Alsace’s temple to gingerbread
Making a gingerbread house, much like roasting chestnuts over an open fire, is a holiday activity that sounds like way more fun than it turns out to be.
But I’ll share with you an activity that is exactly as fun as it sounds: getting in your car, driving to France, visiting Le Palais du Pain d’Epices and returning home with a trunk full of gingerbread.
To save you a trip to Google Translate and/or the trouble of deciphering context clues, Le Palais du Pain d’Epices is the magnificently French way to say “gingerbread palace.”
It is an attraction in the small Alsatian village of Gertwiller, just a two-hour drive from the Kaiserslautern Military Community, and features both a tour of a working gingerbread factory and the world’s most fragrant gift shop.
I’d have been just as intrigued by a chateau du pain d’epices as a palais. In fact, “palace” struck me as a bit hyperbolic, but that was before I visited. After I’d been there, I was trying to think of a more decadent descriptor than mere palace.
As I approached, the distinctive building popped from its rather mundane provincial surroundings with an unmistakable gingerbread-hued facade. I was already hungry as I parked the car — we hadn’t had lunch after the long trip, but I was ready for dessert. Or gingerbread for lunch and dessert.
Next up was a trip through the workshop, which doubles as a museum. The tour delves into the history of gingerbread and its prominent role in Alsatian Christmas tradition before offering windows into the workshop and free samples of the merchandise on the way out the door.
I tried the free samples, of course, but I hardly needed to. I was going home with a substantial amount of gingerbread. The gift shop delivered with massive gingerbread hearts, gingerbread people and animals, gingerbread houses and what looked like just big shapeless masses of gingerbread for us purists who don’t need a theme for their gingerbread.
It’s possible, of course, to get pretty good gingerbread without leaving Germany, especially in the southwest. But what fun would that be? I recommend clearing your trunk of unnecessary freight, pulling up to Le Palais du Pain d’Epices and stocking up for the winter.
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DIRECTIONS: Address: 144 Route de Strasbourg, 67140 Gertwiller, France. Free parking available outside.
TIMES: Open Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Open Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. The store and tour are closed Christmas Day and closed for the season after the new year, reopening in mid-February.
COSTS: A tour of the workshop costs four euros ($4.44) for adults and two euros ($2.22) for children 13 and under. Children under age five enter free.
FOOD: Free gingerbread samples are provided, and the gift shop offers much more for purchase.
INFORMATION: English-language information is available at lepalaisdupaindepices.com