Rosie Maher studies French at the University of Leeds and spent her year abroad as a Language Assistant at Lycée Blaise Pascal in Colmar, France, which she documented on her blog. Inspired by our article on using your blog to reflect on your year abroad, she created this article about her time in Colmar.
1. Home is...?
A flat owned by my school, which was barely a five minute walk to any class. It was pretty chilly in winter, though the cheap rent compensated for that; I doubt I’ll ever get accommodation so cheaply again in my life…
2. Building you'd like to buy?
There are so many beautiful buildings in Colmar that it’s hard to choose, but if pushed then it would have to be the marché couvert. Besides the fact that it’s filled with food, including a fantastic stall devoted to pretzels, it’s also right next to Quai de la Poissonnerie which is one of my favourite spots.
3. Best meal?
Hands down, anything at Le Palais des Légendes. It’s a crêperie located on Grand Rue, which has an incredible selection of galettes (a sort of savoury crêpe) and crêpes. They also do a great selection of tarte flambée: both savoury and sweet. Plus, as all of their food is made to order, it’s possible to slightly alter some of the ingredients.
4. Best value for money meal?
Bagelstein – a bagel lover’s paradise. Choose from their suggestions or create your own; either way it’s possible to get change out of €5. Their gratiné (plain bagels topped with grated cheese) bagels were definitely my favourite! It’s quite small and gets busy at lunch time, so be prepared to wait.
5. Favourite place to shop?
Any of the following bakeries: La Banette (for the chocolate banana croissants and amazing baguettes), Poulaillon (for a pain au chocolat drizzled in chocolate and covered with smarties) and GILG (for the huge choice of macaroons.) Of course, there were lots of other good bakeries, but these were by far my favourites.
6. First thing you do when you arrive?
Wander through the park, Champ de Mars, before heading to Quai de la Poissonnerie and Petite Venise. They’re definitely some of the most picturesque spots in Colmar.
7. Best drinking spot?
Les Trois Singes, without a doubt. It’s less touristy than some of the Irish pubs and bars in Colmar, and the prices are reasonable. It’s also got a huge selection of beers for anyone interested in that sort of thing…
8. Best first date location?
If it’s the right time of year, then the Christmas markets: there are five of them, each with a different theme, so you’d be hard pushed to not find something you liked. Plus, the selection of hot drinks and food is vast – and cheaper than any restaurant.
9. Earliest Colmar memory?
It would be a tie between seeing the deputy head’s office full of pig figurines, or when a lovely member of staff tried to advertise his single son to me whilst showing me around my new flat.
10. Favourite discovery?
Maestro del Caffè – undoubtedly the best place to go if you want breakfast out. For under €5, you get a pastry (either a croissant or a pain au chocolat), a small viennoiserie, a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and a hot drink of your choice.
11. Best cultural spot?
The Musée Unterlinden: it’s currently undergoing restorative works, so a small selection of their best pieces is currently on show in the Église des Dominicains. It’s well worth a visit if you’re in the area, and the student entry price is reasonable.
12. Favourite club?
I didn’t actually go on a night out to a club whilst I was abroad, so unfortunately I can’t really comment on this – though my advice would be to head to Strasbourg if you want a big night out, as from memory there were only two small “clubs” in Colmar anyway.
13. Best place to end a night out?
Definitely my bed. Though it would have been nice if it didn’t creak every time I moved!
14. What would you do if you were Mayor for a day?
Sort out the bus schedules – if the online schedule says there’s a bus to Eguisheim, then said bus should exist.
15. Building you'd like to be locked in overnight?
Le Colisé – then I could indulge myself in a French film marathon on a huge screen. Ideally, I would be locked in with a couple of friends – or I’d get completely freaked out by myself!
16. Best time of year to visit?
Winter, because of the incredible Christmas markets and festive atmosphere. Plus, if there’s snow in the Vosges (which there usually is, though often after Christmas) you can go snowshoeing and skiing.
17. Thing you'd miss the most if you left?
I miss Colmar a ton, and in all honesty there isn’t one thing I miss more than anything else. I miss my school, my lovely colleagues, the students I taught, the proximity to fantastic walks in the Vosges, the architecture, the bakeries…
18. Most overhyped tourist trap?
I honestly don’t think Colmar has one, or at least I don’t think I ever felt anything was overhyped!
19. Favourite local expression?
I can’t pick one out in particular, but I loved the fact that lots of the older generation spoke Alsatian amongst themselves. I wish I’d learnt a little bit of it!
20. Best way to get from A to B?
Walk – or perhaps cycle, if you’ve got a better sense of balance than me! The one-way system in Colmar would make attempting to see anything by car completely fruitless. Most of the main streets are pedestrianised anyway and if you get tired, there are lots of cafés to rest up in!
21. Best view?
Either the view of Quai de la Poissonnerie from the back of the marché couvert, or the postcard-perfect view of Petite Venise.
22. Who's your local hero?
Whoever organised the Festival du Film de Colmar. I’m incredibly grateful for the free cinema screenings, which enabled me to discover some new films – including my current favourite, La Famille Bélier.
23. What's next on your list?
When I go back (I say ‘when’ not ‘if’ because I’m determined to return!) I’d like to visit Le Struthof. It’s the only concentration camp on French soil; I never quite made it there due to the fact that it’s virtually impossible to visit without your own car.