As you know, I had a very busy April, first with my dad and Kirsty visiting Mulhouse and then going away for a few days to go skiing with them in Switzerland. This was all followed closely after by a visit from my friend Anna who is a lectrice in Rouen and also my twin sister Amy! I had picked out some of my favourite places to show them both and also had some new experiences too which was a nice balance. The two visits together give a good overview of what makes a good visit to Mulhouse! There’s a few things that aren’t included here that I think are worth a visit, like the Musée Historique and the Musée de l’Automobile, that you can read about in the post about my dad and Kirsty’s visit. There’s also things that I haven’t done yet, like visit the Cité du Train or go to some of the villages around Mulhouse, that I imagine are also great. It’s lucky I’ve got another year here!
Food and Drink
I’m not ashamed to say that many of my holidays and plans revolve around food and having Anna and Amy visit was no different! I took both of them to some of my favourite places and also got to try somewhere new that I’ve had my eye on for ages!
Definitely one of my favourite spots in Mulhouse, Gambrinus was the first stop on both Anna and Amy’s trips. I think it’s a great introduction to Mulhouse, not just because it’s popular but it shows that Mulhouse does have a bit of life to it, something that it is sometimes accused of lacking. It’s the ‘trendy’ bar that the young people of Mulhouse frequent, known for its large range of draught beers and its tartes flambées. Both my visitors were big fans of the Alsatian delicacy. Anna sampled the Savoyarde, which was the standard onions and lardons plus reblochon cheese because it reminded her of her year abroad in Sallanches in Haute-Savoie. Amy is vegetarian so she had hers without the lardons obviously but it was still a big hit!
Astronome is another place that I took both of them. It’s a fairly new rooftop bar that opened in October but I have only really been taking advantage of it since spring arrived, for obvious reasons. I have to be honest, while the view is incredible and I would kill for their pineapple mojitos, the service is not great. It can take a while to order and get your drinks but if the weather is nice, that’s not the worst thing in the world. When Anna was visiting, we met up with some of my friends there and me and Amy had a wee apéro one afternoon.
A hidden gem tucked away in an old industrial complex whose buildings have been renovated, NoMad is a restaurant and bar that has a warm ambience and Instagram worthy decor. Every Sunday they have decadent brunches that I’m yet to try but have heard good things about. Amy and I went to NoMad with a few of my friends post-Gambrinus for another drink. The mojitos aren’t as good as Astronome but I had a Hot Tub (a vodka cocktail with raspberry and pineapple) that was delicious and they have a wide range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Their menu looks great too so I need to go back for food soon!
I have been desperate to try Panettone since I moved to Mulhouse, after the recommendation of my friend and food blogger Àine from Une Bouchée a Day. During drinks at NoMad, I finally got around to arranging a visit with Àine herself, our friend Lynzie (another Scot!) and of course Amy tagging along as well. It was such a shout because the pizza was fantastic. It was genuinely one of the best pizzas I think I’ve ever had. Everyone but Amy went for the Pomodoro, a delicious concotion of cherry tomatoes, pesto, ricotta salata and your choice of Buffalo mozzarella or burratta to top it off (we all went for burrata). Amy had the Parmigiana with aubergines, cherry tomatoes, rocket and parmesan. It was also great but she admitted to having a bit of food envy!
Homemade English breakfast
With all the delicious food to be found in France, we still decided to go all out and make a full English breakfast on Amy’s last morning. We went up to our neighbours’ flat where some other British language assistants live and toiled away in the kitchen for almost two hours to put together an impressive spread. We had sausages, meat and veggie, bacon, a huge bowl of scrambled eggs, hash browns, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and even homemade baked beans! There was also a French touch as we added croissants on the side.
I had a range of activities in mind for when Amy and Anna came to visit, some the same and some different. The same as with the food and drink choices, I had been to some of these places before but there were others that were new to me too! Having visitors is a great reason or excuse to finally get around to doing or seeing the things you haven’t made time for yet.
An obvious must for both Anna and Amy was to take them to Strasbourg. If you think Mulhouse looks nice, which they both did, wait until you see Strasbourg! I have yet to do a lot of the attractions there because every time I go I just get caught up in wandering around the beautiful streets. Particularly with Anna, the same thing happened. We started wandering through Petite France, the especially picturesque part of the city, and then headed towards the university. Anna is currently considering where to do a masters in France after her doing another year as a lectrice and so wanted to check out the campus. We had the vague idea that we would carry on walking until we got to the European Parliament but luckily we checked before we got too far and found out that it was closed for Easter weekend. Instead we got a baguette and some other bits and pieces and had a picnic next to the river in the glorious sunshine.
With Amy, we at least managed one activity! Just like with Anna, the weather was stunning so we decided to take advantage of that and climb the cathedral tower to enjoy the views over the city in the sunshine. Previously I’ve seen the queue to climb the tower, separate from the one just to get inside, snake all the way across the courtyard next to the cathedral but because this was a random Thursday afternoon we didn’t have to wait that long. It cost €5 as a student (I can get in as a student using my staff campus card) and €8 for Amy at regular price. There are more than 200 steps that wind up a series of narrow spiral staircases. You don’t actually go all the way to the top of the tower but instead to the roof of the main body of the cathedral with the tower continuing above you. The rooftop has viewfinders attached to the fence that point out some of the things that you can see, including the Vosges mountains to the west and the Black Forest in Germany to the east. Going up wasn’t necessarily easy but I have to admit, I found going down harder! Winding down the spiral staircases made me so dizzy I started to feel a little sick! Still very worthwhile though!
Musée de l’Impression sur Étoffes
Back in Mulhouse I took Amy to another one of its museums, but not the more famous car or train ones. I know my audience and I took her to the Musée de l’Impression sur Étoffes or the fabric printing museum. It was actually pretty interesting with lots of beautiful fabrics. Some of the signs were in French and English but some were only in French so Amy had to engage my translation services (I gave her the friends and family discount!).
As well as a day trip to Strasbourg, Amy got a surprise bonus, the morning she arrived when I somehow got us on the wrong train back from the airport and ended up in Basel instead of Mulhouse! I only noticed when I got a text saying ‘Welcome to Switzerland’! Neither of us were that bothered about it seeing as the trains between Basel and Mulhouse are so regular, plus it makes for a funny story (at my expense). We actually didn’t get the next train back but instead went to a food hall near the train station and had an iced coffee in the sun.
Another of the days Amy was here we visited Switzerland again, this time on purpose! Amy has a friend that lives there who she met while volunteering in Mexico 4 years ago. She hasn’t seen her since and she figured that while she was over in this part of the world, she might as well make the short two hour train ride and have a reunion! Lea met us at the train station and there were some very happy hugs when they saw each other again!
Lea works part time at the observatory in the city so our first stop was a private trip up to the observation platform for a usually inaccessible view across the city. From there she was able to point out the main attractions, some that we would go on to see and some that we wouldn’t have time to, considering we were only there for a few hours. We basically walked a loop from the observatory, which is on the main shopping street, through the old town to Lake Zurich and back round. We visited the Großmunster, the large cathedral, which had some beautiful and more alternative stained glass windows inside. We walked down to the Opera, a very grand building, past the lake and then to Lea’s favourite vegetarian restaurant for lunch. It’s the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world! Lea had to leave shortly after lunch so Amy and I found a park to read in for the last little while before our train. And thus concluded our whirlwind trip to Zurich!
Water polo match
Last up on Amy’s visit was a very specific Sara-related activity. I’ve been playing water polo since I was 13 and found a club to play with in Mulhouse as well. It just so happened that the elite men’s team had a match the weekend Amy was here. Some of my friends in Mulhouse have come along to a few matches throughout the year so there were five or six of us that went together. There was a synchro demonstration before the match including one of my friends which was very cool and then the match itself was great! It was very close, coming down to the last few minutes but in the end we won!
Sometimes just wandering around a place is enough to get a feel for it and see some great things. Mulhouse isn’t big, especially centre ville, so it’s easy to get your bearings quickly but there’s still lots of beautiful buildings to see if you know where to look.
Place de la Réunion
You absolutely cannot come to Mulhouse without seeing Place de la Réunion. It is the main square with the Temple Saint-Étienne on one side, the bright pink Hôtel de Ville on another and a number of beautiful buildings as well. The weekend that Anna was here the cafes and bars around the square had put out their terraces, marking the real entrance into spring and the warmer weather. We were there two days in a row to enjoy a coffee in the sun, with a croissant to accompany us one day. A perfect setting, particularly on a Sunday morning.
Université de Haute-Alsace
While not really of interest for the general visitor to Mulhouse, Amy did request that we take a walk down to the university so that she could see where I work. There is a lovely path running along the river that comes out right at the bottom of campus. It’s not a massive area so we just walked up to look at my building and then turned around.
One of my only complaints since I moved to Mulhouse is that it’s missing some nice big green spaces. I’m picturing something like the Meadows in Edinburgh, nice to walk through even on a cold, wet or windy day but absolutely glorious on a sunny one. Mulhouse has lots of trees, flowerbeds and even the tramways are carpeted in grass which brightens up the city a lot but I haven’t been that impressed with the parks. However, recently I have found a new appreciation for them. The sunny weather definitely hasn’t hurt. When Anna was here we spent an hour or two reading in the park at Nouveau Bassin, one of the canals cutting through Mulhouse. One of the bigger parks in the centre of town is Square Steinbach, just behind the Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Art) and Ballet de l’Opéra national du Rhin. After our lunch at Panettone, Amy, Àine, Lynzie and I went to find a new bubble tea place that has just opened in Mulhouse, right next to the square, and then drank them in the sunshine on the grass. All in all, I think I need to be a bit more appreciative of the parks in Mulhouse!
So, there you go. If for someone reason you end up in Mulhouse and I’m not there to give you a guided tour, you can use this as a starting point for your visit!