France: Visiting Hidden Gems of France

Submitted by Lauren Brooks on the 2022 spring semester program in Paris, France…

Last week, midterms ended and our week of spring break began! After some searching and intense consideration, my Blue Hen roommate and I decided to take a trip to Strasbourg and Colmar. These two towns are located in the Grand Est (or Alsace) region close to the German border. Scanning the pictures, we were captivated by the vastly different architectural style of the towns compared to Parisian architecture. I notified my internship supervisor of my trip, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that he had family in the region. He was kind enough to send us a list of places we should visit, and of course, where to eat!

We spent two full days in each town. Strasbourg is akin to a medium-sized European city while Colmar is a small village about an hour from Strasbourg. While perusing the cobblestone streets and passing down riverside walkways, we would pass by cute storefronts, restaurants, cafes, and cultural sites. From our self-guided walking tour of Petite France in Strasbourg to our boat tour through La Petite Venise in Colmar, we tried soaking in as many views as we could.

Something we found very interesting while we were ordering (primarily in French might I add!) was the amount of German influence in cuisine. I’ve come to recognize words in French by reading menus and eating at restaurants. However, there were quite a few German words that appeared to be mixed in. The Grand Est region has a rich history surrounding it and its borders from previous wars and conquests. Knowing a bit of this context helped us understand the fusion of both French and German culture in these areas. We enjoyed a dish my supervisor recommended to us called Flammekueche, a thin-crusted dough traditionally topped with fromage blanc (white cheese), onions, and lardons (bacon bits). We’d also been lucky enough to find a vegan version so that my roommate could enjoy this traditional dish as well.

Of course, it wouldn’t be spring break without some surprises. Unfortunately, we found out that our train home had been canceled soon after arriving at the train station. As a result, we had to stay the night in a nearby hotel to take another train at sunrise. However, we made it through, and we were able to come back safely the next morning. We’ll just consider it a surprise roommate bonding experience.

If you’re a student that’s looking forward to studying abroad for a session, don’t forget to find the hidden gems in your host country! Although COVID restrictions are still in place for our program, we were able to make the most of our time and see something new, even getting a peek into German culture. If you have the means, definitely get to know your host country and its culture to a fuller extent.

Street in Strasbourg, France over the Ill River
Boat Tour in Colmar
Flammenkeuche in Strasbourg