A Sunny French Sunday: Last Day in Mulhouse
I awake to the sounds of church bells this sunny French Sunday,
and I throw open my hotel window and breath in the Alsatian air. We have a full day today involving a classic car, an écomuseé and a Petit Prince. Let’s go!
The French Car
Jonathan and I wander all the way down Rue du Sauvage, enjoying the fresh morning air on our way to Le square de la Bourse where we will meet Clémence and to pick up our Classic Car for the short drive to Ungersheim, 20 minutes up the road. We arrive to find Clémence circling the square, the sounds of a Citroën 2CV engine filling the air. Engines revving, gears grinding, clutches popping, she looks like a 16-year-old out for her final driving test!
The Citroën 2CV (en francais: “Deux Chevaux”, “Deux Chevaux-vapeur”, literally “two steam horses” or “two tax horsepower”) is a front-engine, front wheel drive, air-cooled economy car introduced at the 1948 Paris Mondial de l’Automobile and manufactured by Citroën for model years 1948–1990. Our 2CV is circa 1971. However, the model design does not appear to have changed much. Conceived by Citroën’s then Vice-President Pierre Boulanger to help motorize the high number of farmers still using horses drawn carts in 1930s France, the 2CV is noted for its minimalist combination of innovative engineering and somewhat utilitarian, straightforward metal bodywork — initially corrugated for added strength without adding additional weight. Mulhouse seems to be the capital of Classic Cars!
The French Museum:
We speed up to a pleasant 80 klicks per hour on the highway, en route to Ungersheim, the roof open, the windows down and I admit to feeling less than protected as I view the highway flying by beneath my feet. We are speeding our way up the Upper Rhine to the Écomuseé d’Alsace, a French/Alsatian version of our Upper Canada Village but on a smaller scale. The Écomuseé is organized like a real village from the early 19th and 20th centuries with streets, gardens, a river and all its representative, historic buildings: homes, farms, schools, a chapel, train station, mills, and craftsmen’s workshops. We arrive and are whisked through the employee’s entrance and into period costume for our visit. Clémence has been keeping this a secret since our arrival four days ago. Our challenge today is to create some typical, period food: Artepfel Kierla (essentially potato latkes) et un Tarte aux Pommes! We set to peeling, chopping, squeezing and measuring as chatty tourists drop into the kitchen, appropriately name the House of Tastes and Colours, and offer their own versions and critiques of the recipes we are re-creating.
We wander the village in the beautiful early autumn sunlight, visiting the barber, the blacksmith shop, taste some Quetches Eau de Vie, and finally enjoy the fruits of our earlier cooking labours over lunch in the sunny courtyard.
The French Parc:
Back into the car, Clémence once again revs the engine and enveloped by the smell of gasoline and over-gunned engine and overused clutch, we arrive at our final destination: Le Parc du Petit Prince. Developed by Aérophile, a French SME manufacturer of tethered balloons, which is the only approved aircraft for leisure and amusement parks, it is the first aerial amusement park in the world and opened it’s doors in July 2014. This poetic, fun and educational park is uniquely French: a ‘soft’ (no gut-wrenching roller coasters or fear inducing drop-rides) amusement park geared to children (of all ages) but predominately 5-10-year-olds and themed after the famous de Saint-Exupéry character. The Park highlights two universes and three dimensions with more than thirty attractions ranging from sheep petting and train rides to a 3D Astral presentation and trampoline hall with the highlight being two tethered balloons that visitors can travel to the other planets of the Little Prince that float you some 35 meters off the ground with beautiful views of the surrounding French countryside. Due to wind restrictions, we were unable to share the Prince’s unique aerial perspective but marveled at the mechanics of the process. The park is a great ‘second half of the day’ filler with your kids after spending the morning enjoying the history and charm of the Écomuseé.
The French Dinner
Our final meal in Mulhouse is exactly what the doctor ordered. Dr. Bach in this case. We have been invited to share un table d’hote at the charming B&B Le Jardin de la Tuilerie, straddling the town lines of Mulhouse and Pfastatt. Husband and wife team Henri and Rossella make for jolly and knowledgeable hosts as Henri takes us on a tour of their magnificent gardens, both vegetable and flower while Rossella busies herself with dinner prep. And what a dinner it is: Rossella’s mantra is both herbal/medicinal and also fresh from her garden. We start with a lovely FRESH beet salad, beets that Rossella pulled from the backyard only moments before! Onto a beautiful mushroom créme freshly foraged from their woodlot. Next comes a last of summer Gazpacho, a thin slice of parmesan gracing the top for salty zing, and a surprise finish of parmesan cream at the bottom of the cup. Incredibly good. Next: hand rolled tortellini (Rossella insists that we learn the proper way of rolling tortellini and one never argues with the Chef!) in a beautiful, light sage butter. Dessert is a cream and compote made of…….dandelion petals! We spend many moments attempting to determine what the taste is. Henri pulls out several bottles of his homemade grappa that we sip and discuss both the medicinal and pleasurable qualities of his eau de vie.
We spend the entire evening talking food, flowers, the power of floral and herbal remedies and in particular, the power of the famous Dr. Edward Bach and his 38 botanical remedies. Henri and Rossella have a genuinely beautiful home that is both welcoming and comfortable, and we say our final goodbyes well after midnight. Perhaps our best meal in Mulhouse.
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Vote here: festivefrance.rendezvousenfrance.com
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