A week ago I set foot outside Mulhouse for the first time since I arrived here more than a month ago. A quick note before we dive in, my mum pointed out that it might be a good idea to establish how you actually pronounce Mulhouse. If you are anything like me, your first instinct is to say it Mull-house but in actual fact you’ve got to lean in to that French accent more. It is actually pronounced Muh-lose, as in to lose your keys. I’m sorry if this shatters everything you thought you knew but it was time you knew the truth.
Anyway, back to the point. I spent the day in Strasbourg with another recent graduate from Edinburgh who is working as a lectrice as well but in Metz. Strasbourg is about an hour on the train from Mulhouse and just over an hour from Metz where Aislinn lives. Funnily enough, Aislinn and I never crossed paths at university but we’ve been in touch a fair amount since we got these jobs. We decided it was about time we met in real life and Strasbourg was the perfect place for that.
Strasbourg is the largest city in the Grand Est region of France, located right on the border with Germany. It is the official seat of the the European Parliament and along with Brussels, Luxembourg and Frankfurt is one of the de facto capitals of the European Union. The city is known for its gothic cathedral and its traditional black and white timber-framed buildings. There’s lots to do in Strasbourg, you can visit the European Parliament, take a boat down the river, climb to the top of the cathedral or visit one of the many museums and parks. Not that we did any of that…
We arrived mid-morning to glorious sunshine. As soon as we started walking from the train station towards the centre of town, without a particular plan in mind, I immediately understood why everyone loves Strasbourg. Ever since I’ve arrived I’ve been told that I have to see it, that Mulhouse is the ugly duckling of the pair. Now, I’m a big fan of Mulhouse and its understated charm but Strasbourg is like Mulhouse on steroids. It’s absolutely GORGEOUS.
The centre of Strasbourg is based around the Grand-Île, a neighbourhood surrounded by the River Ill. It is full of nice little streets lined with cafes, restaurants, bars, boulangeries, patisseries and more. It was a nice area to get a feel for the city. Aislinn and I spent some time just wandering the streets, getting our first glimpse of the cathedral, looping down to the river and scoping out a nice spot to sit for a drink. We settled for one of the cafes on the square facing the cathedral, probably a massive tourist trap but worth it this once for that view. We eventually left when we started to get hungry and went on a mission to find some food. Mission successful and with stomachs full of some amazing aubergine parmigiana pizza we carried on our wandering around the city.
Before I came to France I was able to meet up with a girl from Glasgow who was going to Strasbourg to work as an English assistant with the British Council. Aislinn and I met up with Lyndsey and another girl doing British Council, Libby, during the afternoon. Our original plan was to go out of the city centre to Parc de l’Orangerie but this was foiled by disruptions to the trams caused by protests. It’s a bit of a stereotype but the French do like to strike and protest a lot. Currently there are a lot of protests happening every week against the passe sanitaire, the system that requires you to show proof of vaccination or a recent negative test in order to use certain public facilities or go to restaurants and bars. Instead we set off to an area of Strasbourg known as Pétite France to find another park but instead stopped for some ice cream. We sat there chatting for a while before Aislinn and I had to catch out trains home.
All in all it was a really lovely day. It was nice to meet some new people who didn’t feel like strangers, Strasbourg is a really lovely city and even though we didn’t do any of the touristy things, it was nice to get to know the city. Strasbourg is known for its Christmas markets so I’m looking forward to those but I’ll definitely be back before then!