Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year’s in Strasbourg

I’m about to start writing up an account of our recent travels, but in keeping with the day, it feels appropriate to do specifically New Year’s post.

Tonight, Amynah and I are heading to a small party at Julie and Sebastien’s place. They live in a slightly sketchy part of town, which should make it interesting for us. Remember those riots they had in France last year, when all the cars were getting burned? Well, about the only thing we knew about Strasbourg before we came here is that car burning is the local New Year’s custom – especially out in Meinau, where the party is. I just hope those guys have somewhere safe to park.

I’m getting a little nervous as midnight approaches – fireworks aren’t restricted here, and we’ve been hearing window-rattling Howitzer-like booms for days, set off by over-enthusiastic teenage boys. Once the hour strikes it’s going to be insane.

Though I knew it was coming, it's still a little strange to be celebrating New Year's here. It’s been a heck of a year and Canada feels much further in my past than just six months. A year ago, my job at McGill was becoming enjoyable again, both because I loved the work I was doing but more because I enjoyed being around the people I worked with. That made it harder to quit than it might have been a year earlier, but on the other hand it was good to leave on a high note. Even before I came here I got to do a lot of traveling, to New York, Nashville, Costa Rica, Alberta, BC and Nova Scotia. I also lost my Uncle Richie far too soon. That I was able to say goodbye to him first is no consolation at all.

Since coming here I've managed to get some writing done, but far, far less than I intended. On the other hand, I've managed a couple of European commissions along with the Globe articles, so I'm on the right track. I've also been to Germany, Switzerland and England, driven on the Autobahn, visited a handful of castles, a zillion churches, a few museums, two spas, shared many excellent meals with remarkably kind and hospitable French-folk and learned when to serve Gewurztraminer (dessert, apparently, though I prefer "never.")

My friends are moving on in their lives as well: a few have had children, others have or are planning on buying houses, some are going back to school or changing jobs, moving to places like Japan or the Congo; they're grown-up people doing grown-up things, and since they're my friends then I must too be a grown-up. All of which is enough to make a guy feel pretty old (having a friends five-year-old daughter guess that I was “fifty-eight years old” didn’t help).

So, after six months in France, what happens in the New Year? We have a horde of guests descending upon us in the coming months, so there’s that to look forward to. I’ll be doing more travel writing, and I’m planning on getting back into magazine writing as well. We have tentative plans to visit Ireland, Serbia and Romania this year. I don’t do resolutions so much, but that’s not a bad agenda for keeping myself occupied.

I hope the New Year brings all of you health, happiness and good cheer – and travel! To France, for instance!

Now I have to go mix me up some Molotov cocktails – those cars don’t burn on their own, you know.

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