You Can Visit the Two French Villages That Inspired Belle's Hometown in Beauty and the Beast

Dolder Tower in Riquewihr, France. iStock
Dolder Tower in Riquewihr, France. iStock

Beauty and the Beast

's Belle spent her days reading fairy tales set in lands far, far away, but what this tamer of the Beast didn’t realize was that the "Little Town" she called home was perhaps the most magical village of all. Inspired by the real villages of Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé, two neighboring towns in France's Alsace region, Belle's hometown is practically a real-life destination where fans of the classic, animated Beauty and the Beast can walk a mile in Belle’s dainty, size six ballet flats. And now, with Disney's live-action version in theaters, our wanderlust for quaint bookshops, reading hardbacks by a fountain, and touring ornate castles is at an all-time high.

 

RIQUEWIHR

It’s easy to see why Disney’s animators chose Riquewihr for inspiration, and even easier to see why Belle grew up with a love for fairy tales. From its bright, cheery houses to a steeple rising above the city, this "poor, provincial town" (her words, not ours) is straight out of a child’s imagination. Adventures by Disney has included Riquewihr on its itinerary for next year's Beauty and the Beast-themed Rhine River cruise, but if you'd like to live out your childhood fantasies before then, Riquewihr is just a 45-minute drive from the Strasbourg Airport.

Vieille Ville Bonjour, bonjour! Walking through this medieval village—the Old Town portion of Riquewihr—is like strolling through a storybook. Vibrant blue, yellow, and pink houses line cobblestone streets, creating a maze perfect for dodging dudes like Gaston. The town's clock tower, Dolder Tower, overlooks the village's main square—the perfect spot to gossip about "crazy old Maurice." Of course, we can’t forget the baker. While he had zero interest in Belle’s book obsession, he sure knew how to bake a mean baguette—which you can buy in present day Riquewihr at the walk-up Au Petit Délice pastry shop on Rue du Général de Gaulle.

iStock

Brocante Collections

To find your own Lumières and Cogsworths, stop by Brocante Collections (2 Rue Latérale), a Riquewihr antique store with everything from dolls and dishes to clocks and candlesticks. Sadly, French-speaking home décor is not guaranteed.

Riquewihr Library While far from the Beast’s elaborate library, Riquewihr has its own collection of over 8000 books at the local Bibliothèque. But, to truly embody Belle’s bookworm tendencies, you’ll have to travel six hours outside of Riquewihr, to Paris’s Shakespeare & Company, the mecca for all book lovers. Frequented by icons like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce in the '20s, Belle would've racked up quite a bill at this literary destination.

A town square fountain in Riquewihr—perfect for reading chapter three. iStock

Château d’Isenbourg

For the full fairytale experience, you can spend the day exploring the town, then end it by sleeping in a castle. The Château d’Isenbourg, just 30 minutes south of Riquewihr, is a five-star castle hotel in the Alsace region. Sure, you may not meet the Beast of your dreams, and yes, this is a far cry from the real thing, but with an onsite spa, Jacuzzi, and nearby wineries, who needs a prince in disguise and his extravagant bachelor pad?

RIBEAUVILLÉ

Roughly twice the size of Riquewihr, Ribeauvillé was another source of inspiration for the Disney team. This town—a short 10-minute drive north of Riquewihr—is bordered by three cliffside castles and embodies that distinct fairytale charm for which the Alsace region is known. Points of interest include:

Wistub Zum Pfifferhus Is this where Gaston and his gang planned their attack on the Beast over brews and bad dancing? Perhaps. The Wistub Zum Pfifferhus's wooden interior and hearty cuisine (think sausages and steaks) could easily prepare that testosterone-fueled clan to storm the castle.

A street in Ribeauvillé. iStock

Ribeauvillé’s CastlesCastle Saint Ulrich

, Girsberg Castle, and Haut-Ribeaupierre Castle provide a majestic backdrop to this quaint village. Ribeauvillé’s castles were built around the 13th century and are accessible by foot, but you may need Gaston’s "five dozen eggs" diet because the hour-long uphill hike is a doozy. (Except please don’t follow this crazy diet—no one needs nearly 5000 calories worth of raw eggs.)

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg While slightly outside of Ribeauvillé (a 20-minute drive), the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg is perhaps the closest thing the Alsace region has to the Beast’s lavish residence. It has a drawbridge ("Kill the Beast!"), a medieval garden (where the snowball fight with all the feels could have taken place), and is surrounded by forests. The castle is open to visitors daily and offers special tours throughout the year. Of course, the actual inspiration for the Beast's castke is Château de Chambord, according to a Screen Rant interview with animator Glen Keane. But if you don’t feel like driving six hours to the Loire Valley, the Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg will do the trick.

Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. iStock

The one glaring thing missing on this list—a must on any Alsace itinerary—is wine. The Alsace region is known for styles like Pinot gris, Riesling, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer, and restaurants throughout Riquewihr and Ribeauvillé serve up some of the region’s finest vintages. While wine wasn’t a central focus in Beauty and the Beast, one Disney fan site notes that Alsace wine was present during the failed wedding scene, which is a good enough reason for us to raise a glass and give a cheer to the beloved beauty and her beast!

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 10 Most Visited National Parks in 2019

Josiah Weiss, Unsplash
Josiah Weiss, Unsplash

The U.S. National Park System comprises more than 400 sites, 62 of which are national parks. Within the parks, visitors can explore forests, deserts, volcanoes, and more. But even with the diversity the National Park System has to offer, many visitors find themselves going to the same iconic parks year after year. To see the most-visited national parks in 2019, check out the list below.

This list comes from recreational visitation data gathered by the National Park Service. It doesn't include national monuments, parkways, or similar units—just the sites with the official "national park" designation.

The Great Smoky Mountains tops the list with roughly 12.5 million visits last year. Stretching across five counties in North Carolina and Tennessee, it's less than a day's drive away for one-third of the U.S. population. The accessibility plus the free admission and gorgeous mountain scenery help make it the country's most popular national park.

It's followed by Arizona's Grand Canyon National Park, which saw 5.97 million visits in 2019 to witness its world-famous views. Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park takes third place with 4.7 million visits, and Utah's Zion National Park takes fourth with 4.5 million. Read on for the full top 10.

The National Park Service was established just over a century ago, and it's amassed a fascinating history. Here are some more facts about the United States's national parks.

  1. Great Smoky Mountains National Park
  2. Grand Canyon National Park
  3. Rocky Mountain National Park
  4. Zion National Park
  5. Yosemite National Park
  6. Yellowstone National Park
  7. Acadia National Park
  8. Grand Teton National Park
  9. Olympic National Park
  10. Glacier National Park