A walk around Strasbourg

One of the things we did while we were in Strasbourg was to take a free walking tour – we’ve done this in Budapest and in Turin, as well as here in Strasbourg, and always found them to be really interesting. I’d recommend looking one up if you’re visiting another city. Of course, one gives a tip at the end, but you give what you think the tour has been worth.

One thing that I found very moving was when our guide, Leo, talked about the way Strasbourg and the surrounding area had passed from French to German hands and back again, a&nd back again…how a member of his family who was still alive had “changed nationality” five times in his lifetime! Leo took us to a war memorial: Here’s my picture of it, taken on a rainy day in December.

Here’s another photo:

Leo explained that the sculpture shows the mother “Alsace” mourning for her dead sons…but, uniquely for war memorials, these young men are naked, they wear no uniforms, nothing to identify them. The words on the memorial read “A nos morts” (To our dead)…almost uniquely, nothing about “dead for the Republic”, or “died for the glory of France”.

And why? Because there had been people from Strasbourgian families who had been fighting on both sides – for the Allied forces, but also for the German, simply because of where they lived, and who had been “in charge” at the time. So the memorial simply commemorates all who died. I found this very moving.

The rest of the tour was informative and interesting too..with a very engaging guide.

We were lucky enough to also have a rapid tour with an acquaintance, Denis, who we’d met for Vin Chaud. He told us about a space between two pillars, outside the Cathedral…Apparently, people had to go through this space at the end of Lent. If they couldn’t fit through, it showed that they hadn’t been very good at their Lenten fasting and were therefore fined!!

Here’s Jane proving that her Lenten fasting had gone well

despite us having eaten one of these, which is a cross between a pretzel and a doughnut (a doughzel? a pretnut?)

and one of these, which is a cross between a Danish pastry and a pretzel (a Danzel? a Pretzish?)

Both were delicious, but I preferred the doughzel – it was much lighter than it looked. We had shared one, but would have liked one each! Unfortunately, we’d taken it back to the flat to eat, so it was too far to go back to buy another one!

 

 

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Well…hello there!

Goodness me, long time no see!

Another busy week, including a meal out at friends’ on Monday, meeting another friend for drinks and nibbles on Thursday, then the “Office Party” yesterday. Plus trying to plan for the week’s work! And deliver lessons! Last weekend was taken up with Christmas preparations – it all got a bit on top of me, unfortunately – I think it’s partly as a result of the hormonetherapy tablets I suffer from heightened anxiety: stuff which wouldn’t have bothered me before now makes me worried. For example, coming back from Strasbourg, I had 15 minutes between trains. Lyon Part Dieu is a fairly small station, with a limited number of platforms (8, I think) so it takes 5 minutes at most to get from one end to the other. But I was getting more & more anxious about missing the connection during the journey from Strasbourg. In the end I was waiting for 10 minutes on the platform for the Roanne train!

Anyway, the sorting and wrapping of the presents, the getting ready to post them, the decorating the house, the writing of the letter…I got so wrapped up (hah!) in all this that I forgot why we do these things…to celebrate the coming of Emmanuel, Jesus, God with us. I needed to take some deep breaths and ask God to keep reminding me!

Eveything is sorted now. Presents posted (How much?!), emails & letters sent (no cards being sent this year), house decorated (happy I found an Advent candle bridge for 4€ in Noz!) and the Christmas play list is ready. We just need to think about our food – which won’t be too elaborate, I don’t think. We’ll probably go shopping for that together on Friday or Saturday (which might be a bit busy!!) although the smoked trout is already in the freezer as I saw a special offer last week.

The Church Carol Service is tomorrow – mulled wine & mince pies afterwards – Mr FD is going to come,which will be nice. Today I’m just going to chill, and enjoy starting to relax…Although I do need to tidy the study, as it looks like a bomb’s hit it! But it’s a bit overwhelming, so I’ll just sit and panic about doing it. (Yes, really…Sigh)

 

Good times in Strasbourg

I had a lovely few days in Strasbourg, with my friend Jane.

The journey there was a little fraught – although as I didn’t have any connections to make I wasn’t too anxious. We were on the last leg of the journey, about 20 minutes outside Strasbourg, when the train ground to a halt. After about 5 minutes the guard announced that we had hit a deer, and so had to wait for clearance to restart. Also, one assumes, for someone to clear up the debris. We were held up for about 30 minutes, during which time I texted Jane, to keep her up to date with what was happening. Finally we started off again, only to come to another abrupt halt about 10 minutes outside Strasbourg. This time, the guard told us with a weary sigh, there were children playing on the line, and a pram abandoned in our path. I suspect it was more likely to be yoofs dropping things onto the track from a bridge, but I don’t know for sure. That clear up took another 45 minutes or so – we arrived in Strasbourg about 90 minutes late. Jane had come from the flat to meet me, so we were able to have something to eat near the station, before taking a taxi back.

The first (but not the last!) mulled wine!

On Sunday we had planned to go to church, but ended up not going! We woke late and had a leisurely breakfast instead. Then we went to explore the Christmas markets… There were, after all, eleven to explore! Initially we were a little disappointed. They were either a bit too Chinese imported tat, or what was a small number of wooden chalets had been bigged up to be a “Christmas Market” However, as our time went by, we found ourselves being a little more forgiving; some weren’t much to write home about though. The “Off” market was supposed to be edgy and alternative, but was just a bit boring and unfestive. There were four or five containers with a couple of interesting stalls, plus some igloo type structures with some bits and bobs, but nothing terribly out there.

Still, while there were rather too many stalls selling Vin Chaud and baguettes with cheese and ham, we had a lovely time!

By sheer coincidence we were in the Place Kléber when the huge tree lit up – very festive! Especially when watched clutching a Vin Chaud!The market here was a little disappointing too – this was supposed to be the “ethical” market. The description told us that “Some one hundred support, charity and humanitarian associations invite you to come and meet them, discuss what drives them and share their solidarity actions at the Village of Sharing in Place Kléber, from 23 November to 24 December” What it doesn’t say is that these 100 or so associations were sharing approximately 10 chalets on a rolling programme, so there were only 10 different groups at any one time – most of them selling Vin Chaud! We did buy some “Humanitarian soup” (parsnip with ginger and lemongrass) which was good,and Facebook had a stand where they were showing their human face: encouraging us to make a donation to a charitable cause through FB, they were offering a free Christmas sweatshirt for every donation made. Well, as I needed a Christmas jumper for our works Christmas party, but was refusing to buy one, this seemed like an ideal opportunity! I wanted to support Phone Cedit for Refugees, but they don’t have a FB page, so instead I gave a donation to Restos du Coeur, and received a Christmas sweatshirt,a bag, a FB pin, a pair of gloves and a handwarmer!

Some of the decorations were amazing, and the stalls were beautifully decked out too

Our favourite market was in the Place Broglie, which is where we made many of our purchases. It was here we also met Denis, the treasurer of the Convocation of the Episcopal Church in Europe, who lives in Strasbourg. He had offered to take us to taste the “best gluhwein in the markets” so (naturally!) we took him up on the offer. The Vin Chaud was at the stall Chez Mathilde and was, apparently, an old family recipe. It was delicious – the spices used included cinnamon, star anise, cloves, and cardomom. Then Denis took us on a whirlwind tour of the markets (showing us one we’d missed) and ended up buying us a beer in an old fashioned beer kellar/pub type place. We let him go home after thyat (it was raining hard by then) and we wandered around the market a bit longer before heading home ourselves. My back had been playing up both Sunday and Monday,  generally being painful, but also occasionally going into spasm, so I was happy to take the tram home!

Random twinkly lights

We also did some sightseeing, but I’ll tell you aboutthat another time.

Blue arsed flies.

For those who don’t quite understand the metaphor:: Run around is a common expression meaning to be busy, frantic, or otherwise getting the runaround. But to emphasize how much one is running around, we turn to metaphor. I’ve been running around like a blue arsed fly. The fly in question is apparently a blue bottle fly, which buzzes around rather frantically, like someone who is running around busily doing errands.

Golly gosh! I’ve been busy – still am!! Some good things:

  • My calligraphy course went very well – no-one turned up, so I sat & chatted to Martine, the organiser, for anhour then presented my bill, and came home to do my ironing. Hopefully, I’ll get paid the full amount.
  • SNCF have refunded the cost of the initial ticket, that I couldn’t use, from my horrible journey home from convention. I’m still a bit out of pocket, but we’ll accept that.
  • Mr FD has several interviews/job fairs to go to in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed) and I’m getting more work too. The Financial Monster is being kept at bay, thanks to the geneerosity of mothers, and some frugality on our part. Plus a transfer of funds from the UK!
  • I’m going here on Saturday for 5 days!

STRASBOURG CHRISTMAS MARKET

Yay! Huzzah! and other cries of glee.

Less nice, but exciting and interesting news:

  • I resigned from the Transition Committee  for the Bishop Elect. My new medication (hormone therapy) does have a side efect of increased anxiety, and I was finding myself getting really stressed, even just over the Zoom meetings (like Skype) It was doing me no good, so I resigned, deciding that I needed just to focus on Church here in Clermont.
  • However, here in Clermont, Father Rob and his wife Caireen are moving on. They are off to Rome, and we are looking for a new rector. We may need to be creative – possibly a part time rector, possibly something else…Happily the new Bishop Elect is interested in and knowledgable in bi-vocational work. Until someone is appointed I will probably be preaching more/taking more services, and we’ll be having various ordained people visiting so we can have the Eucharist.
  • I’m now on the Strategic Planning Committee – but it is focussing on church here in Clermont!! – as we start to think about what Christ Church in Clermont Ferrand will evolve into. It’s sad that we are losing two well-loved people, but it is exciting to l;ook ahead to what we may become, and what God’s plans are for us.

And off I buzz again – need to have lunch before leaving to go to Clermont to teach.

 

Hope all is well with you, dear Ones. I am thinking about my Things to do Before I’m 60 list. I may publish it at the beginning of January – 10 Things in the 10 months before I’m 60. That seems like a reasonable number of things. Thank you for your ideas – keep them coming!

60 before 60…?

I’m going to be 60 next birthday. Eeep, how did that happen?!

People often plan “35 before I’m 35” things to do…I don’t think I can manage to do , or even think of 60 things!

But – here’s a challenge – I’m going to ask each of those of you who really do read my posts instead of just clicking “like” without reading to suggest one thing that I could do. Preferably nothing that costs a lot of money…for example, I’d love to fly in a hot air balloon over the Chaine des Puys…but it’s way too expensive

But something that might be fun, or interesting, or slightly off-beat, or a challenge (but not too challenging!)

And I’ll try to do them! So get your thinking caps on, and put your suggestions in the Comments.

Mr FD has set in motion our joint 60th Birthday treat – he’s booked tickets to see Big Big Train in Newport, Wales on 1st November. We have friends in South Wales and the south of England, so we’ll try to get to see them. We’re going to set up a virement each month into Mr FD’s Livret A account (savings account) so that the money quietly transfers, and mounts up, without us noticing. Not too much, but enough to help spread the cost. Hopefully we’ll be able to stay with our friends, but it would be nice to maybe have one night in a posh hotel…

Here’s a Big Big Train song for you

Food – and other stuff – in the past week…

It’s been a bit up-and-downy during the past week, food wise. I’ve tried to be sensible and eat well, then every now and then I crack… Luckily, not having biscuits in the house means that the “cracking” is relatively controlled! Though it was hard to contain my delight when I found an “emergency scone” in the freezer! Although technically it was mine, (I’d put 6 in there a while back; Mr FD had his three, but I’d forgotten that I’d only eaten two!) I shared it with Mr FD. Because I’m nice like that!

Highlights this week included last night’s salmon recipe which was delicious! Baked salmon with tomatoes and butternut squashWe didn’t have it with baby salad leaves, but with some sautéed endives, but it was a really good dish. Although it’s a SW recipe, I’d recommend it to anyone who likes salmon!

On Wednesday we had a “do” with the car – the Fiat has been giving us a few problems, but we thought that the garage had fixed the cause.

I was in Roanne shopping, when, outside Lidl, I tried to start it, and there was nothing. All the lights came on, but it wouldn’t start. I phoned Mr FD, who, luckily, wasn’t far away, with our friend Louis – they’d been about to start picking apples at Louis’ family home some 20/30 km from Roanne. So Louis and Mr FD tried to push start the car down a slope – unfortunately I was in the driving seat, and never having push started a car before, I did the wrong things, and it didn’t start. Mr FD contained his annoyance. Louis drove us back home where we picked up the Pug-bus (Peugeot estate) and drove back to Roanne. With Mr FD in the Fiat 500 I towed it back to the Lidl car park (at the top of a slope), then we untied the tow rope and, with a tiny heave from me, Mr FD drove the Fiat down the slope – it started first time!! Huzzah! He drove off around the corner.

As I’d not finished the shopping, we’d planned that I’d go to Carrefour in the Pug-bus to get what I still had to buy. I dithered…I couldn’t face a big hyper-market, so I thought I’d go to the smaller Carrefour Market instead. I had a choice of two ways to go, but for some reason decided to take the least logical – and who should I come across but Mr FD stalled at the traffic lights, right in the middle of rush hour, and blocking the route for everyone else who were just managing to squeeze past by mounting the traffic island…He couldn’t contact me, as he’d left his mobile phone at home (I’ll tell you this for free: had it been the other way round, with me not having my phone, he’d have been right pissed off with me! I didn’t mention it once. Except just now.)

So we re-attached the tow rope, I pulled him round the corner & somehow he started the car again. After that, I wasn’t sure I trusted the Fiat not to stall again, so I abandoned the shopping and followed Mr FD home…

Earlier in the day I’d met up with someone from the Port – she and her husband live on a narrow boat, Out of the Blue, and travel the waterways of France during the summer and over-winter in Roanne – and we’d had a coffee together. It was the first time I’d met Yvonne, and I think we got on quite well. I’m sure we’ll meet up again at some time. I decided to stay and have lunch in the restaurant, so had a cheese omellette, salad and a big plate of chips. So I felt a bit sick from over eating and stress of cars breaking down. Thus when I got home I didn’t want to eat. I defrosted and heated up a curry and naan bread from the freezer for Mr FD, but I just had a couple of crispbreads later on in the evening. There was lots of curry left over so we had it again on Thursday evening, with added chicken & mushrooms, and with rice. It wasn’t very hot – I’m really not very good at judging the right spices to give enough heat to curries! – but it was flavoursome.

I’ve carefully planned next week’s food – however, as always, something will probably happen to change it all…Including not being able to get ingredients or something. I’m shopping (again!) after work on Monday afternoon. That is when I usually shop, but what with forecast snow last Monday, and not many lessons on Wednesday I had changed the day.

Today (writing this on Saturday, scheduling it for Tuesday) we’re having HM pizza for dinner, and tomorrow I’m pulling the wild boar casserole out of the freezer, to have with mash, carrots and green beans. Mr FD is going to be in charge of cooking on Tuesday (Feta stuffed chicken)and on Wednesday (Chinese Pork) and on Thursday (Roast vegetables with feta and pâsta). From next week he’ll be cooking on Friday too, as I’m restarting with my 5 year old student, from 18h- 19h. That’s going to be mostly crafting and colouring while speaking English, but it’s still work.

Of course, it may all be different if – as we hope – Mr FD’s interview goes well. He has an interview on Tuesday afternoon, which sounds like a job right up his street. We keep our fingers crossed.

We hope…

Quelles temps!

What weather!

We knew that snow was coming – in fact, I didn’t go to church last Sunday, because it was forecast, but it didn’t arrive.

On Monday, Mr FD was worried – I had to go to Clermont to teach, but there was an Orange Warning for snow from midday onwards. I wanted to stay in Clermont to prepare for the week, but he wanted me to go home. I compromised by photocopying quickly what I thought I might need, before heading home. It was raining hard, but no sign of snow until I was almost home, and even that was only quelques flocons (a few flakes). It stayed grey and wet all Monday afternoon, but later in the evening it started to snow properly.

When we woke up – power was off! Our house is almost completely electric. Even though we have a granule burner it still requires electricity to feed the granules into the burning compartment, and to work the fan that blows out the hot air; we have a fireplace in our big salon downstairs, which heats bits of the house via the chimney, but that’s it. We had juice and bread for breakfast and Mr FD started digging the cars out, ready for me to go to Clermont in the afternoon for my planned lessons.

However, the motorways were closed – even in snow that’s most unusual for this region.I can only assume that some lorry breakdowns caused by the snow were the culprit rather than the snow itself. People were coming past Mr FD as he worked, asking for directions and saying they’d been stuck on the motorway all night. One of my students contacted me saying they were fine if I  wanted to cancel. As we haven’t yet got the winter tyres on the car, I thought this was prudent.

I was feeling quite caffeine deprived by now, so, knowing that our friends Monique and Michel have a wood stove and a gas cooker, I went across to beg a cup of coffee from them. I stayed in the warm, drinking coffee, while we watched Mr FD continue to clear the pavement and path, and remarked on how well he was working, considering he’d had a gastro the day before (!!)…then Monique suggested we might like to have lunch with them if the power was still off by then. I took a flask of hot water, so Mr FD could have a cup of tea, and we wrapped ourselves up in blankets and read until lunch time. When the power was still off. So we went across the road for tomato salad, and duck pot-au-feu. It was very welcome, as was the friendship and conversation.

Monique wanted to paint that afternoon, so we left at about 2.30, and went back to light candles, wrap ourselves up and read/draw. I really enjoyed the peace of it! Mr FD likes to have music, the radio, the TV on, whatever he’s doing, so there’s almost always sound going on around the house; not today. It was almost silent, erxcept for the swish of passing cars through the snow. At about 5 o’clock the fan on the granule burner started to whirr and we knew the power was back. The kettle went on for a hot drink, and Mr FD turned on the TV. The peace and quiet were over…But it was nice to be warm again!!

But here’s the weird thing – by the next morning most of the snow was gone, and by Thursday we were in bright sunshine and temperatures of 13° or more! Climate change is definitely happening…