The platform listed on the signs in the Mulhouse train station was completely under construction, so it was obviously not the one we needed to board our train from. Luckily, the nice French opera singer translated the very-quickly-spoken French announcement explaining the error and helped us find the new platform.
We would have never succeeded if it hadn't been for him... our French is definitely not strong enough to understand rapid announcements.
Anyway, we arrived in Strasbourg with no problems and walked about 15 minutes to our hostel. The hostel was totally gigantic-- 200 and something beds-- but the reception was 100%% incompetent. They couldn't figure out the password to the internet, couldn't explain how to use the keys (which took us 10 minutes to figure out), couldn't find the key to the kitchen to put our food in the fridge, couldn't find the money to give us change.
And he was a little drunk. But he was really friendly about his shortcomings, just not very open to trying to solve them... this quality is old news. In his defense, he put us in a 3 person dorm room, which was essentially a private room for WAY less cost! AND we had our own bathroom!
We woke up early to make sure that we got our share of the continental breakfast.
The breakfast was totally spectacular. The coffee was delicious and they had a ton of fresh fruit and hot croissants. The stereotypes about French food are definitely true-- everything is fantastic. Even the milk is better here. We stashed a few croissants for later and headed out to the center of town. There was a really pretty church and courthouse right by the hostel, and we spent a little while watching the Sunday morning mass.
Then we walked along the canal to a giant pink sandstone cathedral with a bunch of people singing in front of it. The cathedral was so huge that it was impossible for us to get far enough away to take pictures of the whole thing. There was a cute little market in front of the cathedral, so we shopped around for a while and looked at all the souvenirs.
We kept walking along the canal to Petit France, which is basically the Old Town. Every single building in Petit France was photo-worthy. It pretty much looked like a better (and real) version of the France part of Epcot. Tons of little balconies and flowers, beautiful bridges, plenty of lovely French people, tons of cafes.
Strasbourg is right on the border with Germany, so the architecture was sort of a mix between Bavaria and French styling. And most of the signs were in French and German. We walked across an assortment of bridges to take pictures of the buildings/water, then wandered around for a while trying to find an ideal restaurant for lunch.
Lunch was totally epic. We decided to try and order the most quintessentially "French" meal possible, and we definitely succeeded. We ordered bread and pretzels with Dijon mustard to start, then continued with pate (duck liver) and escargot (snails) to accompanied by a nice local Bordeaux. For the main meal, we had chicken in Riesling cream sauce with mushrooms and a duck pie with Munster cheese and traditional French version of Gnocchi.
Everything was really delicious, especially the mustard and the pate. The pate looked like thick Bologna and was rich and savory.
The escargot was definitely an experience. First of all, we couldn't figure out how to eat them because the shells were WAY too hot to touch and they gave us three different tools to use-- a giant spoon (which we never figured out the use for), a clamp (that we had to place the shell in with our fingers because we were too uncoordinated to pick it up with the clamp) and a little fork for digging out the snail.
They tasted exactly like you would think a snail would taste-- butter, pesto (since there was a pesto garnish on top), and rich potting soil. Plus, they had the consistency of old gum/cooked oysters/snails... Hilarious.
After our charming lunch experience, we returned to the hostel to relax before our train to Strasbourg.
We tried to watch the finale of Glee, but the Internet sucked too much so we just headed to the train station. We took a train from Strasbourg to Basel, then Basel to Zurich, then Zurich to Wetzikon, where we met up with Jenna's friend. More on that in the Zurich blog... Au reviour!
We found plenty of helpful French people on the trains between Paris and Strasbourg. Our favorite was an opera singer from Strasbourg that looked like Josh Groban and helped us figure out the train from Mulhouse to Strasbourg.