Monday, September 24, 2007


Photo courtesy my French teacher. I believe she took the photo in order to stick it to all of us who didn't go out picking with her this Sunday. Gotta love the French.

My younger sister and her fiancé are coming in to town tonight; we have many long bike rides and a trip to Rome planned with them, so posting will be light (not that anyone seems to care).

In any case, right now I need to get the apartment looking welcomingly slovenly (up from sty-like) for them, and then Amynah and I are going to enjoy a dinner of fresh mushrooms, (pictured here), as picked by my French teacher this very weekend. I will thus spare you the harrowing tale of how we spent this weekend helping people move to Lipsheim and the 77-km bike ride we took on the previous weekend because, frankly, I'm sure you people are sick of reading about my suffering.

Also, I leave you with thd video below, because it's hard not to smile after watching it. Further proof that l care about you, dear readers, even though you never call. Are you sleeping enough? Are you eating well? I worry....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

How best to comemmorate a mime?

How else, but a moment of silence?

When first I moved to Strasbourg, I comforted myself that my near-total lack of language competence would matter little, as I was convinced that the locals would all be as fluent as their native son, Marcel Marceau (née Marcel Mangel) in the inaudible arts. It proved not to be, as I learned to my sorrow on my first foray into town search of a telephone booth.

I've moved beyond that now, but nonetheless, in honour of the entertainer's death this weekend at age 84, I'm putting a blank CD on the stereo and cranking the volume.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Trying to Finnish me off

Abbey of Mulbach, where we started Sunday's hike. Had I known what I was in for, I might have popped in for word or two

I arbitrarily decided that this weekend was going to be my birthday weekend, and what a weekend it was. I don’t mean to brag, but it was one of those weekends that I vaguely fantasized about in those long, snow-fever months prior to moving here.

Saturday, Amynah and I walked to Kehl, Germany, about an hour away, in order to meet up with my French teacher and her husband. She’s Alsatian, he’s British. We were surprised to walk in to have a party in full swing, as they had also invited some Irish friends of theirs who work for the Council of Europe one of whom had, in turn, brought her Mum and sister. We sat around and drank a German rosé (very good, believe or not) and filling our gullets with a selection of homemade tartes (Amynah’s contribution was a tomato and olive concoction the recipe for which, if you like a good tarte, you should really get from her).

Afterwards we all wandered over to the Jardin de deux rives where the Strasbourg orchestra was holding a free concert. We sat off to the side of the stage, which threw off the acoustics, but it was enjoyable nonetheless, and not just because I found the conductor’s pronunciation of “Leonard Bernstein” hilarious (Vanessa Wagner of those Wagners, was the featured pianist. She was excellent).

Anyway, after the concert we returned to my teacher’s where the whisky soon made an appearance (I mentioned all the other guests were Irish, right?). We didn’t make it home until about 1 AM.

This was a bad move, as we had a date with destiny the next morning, destiny, in this case taking the form of that force of nature known as Sami the Finn.

Sami the Finn had suggested a hike in the Vosges, specifically the Grand Ballon, the highest peak in that not inconsiderable pack of hills. He had chosen a route that would start us pretty much at the bottom and, over the course of 22 km, take us one vertical kilometer and back (the peak is 1440 m, we started at about 350m).

At 700 m. Halfway there!

My camera ran out of batteries after I took about three pictures, so I never got a shot of the top. This is probably a good thing, as I was therefore unable to capture us at hour six, scavenging through the underbrush, desperate for nourishment, hands and faces stained a purplish hue as we shoved blackberries and blueberries into our slavering mouths.

Oh, the humanity.

We spotted these at roughly the same time my hunger had reached the point I caught myself saying to Sami "Yes, I know the red mushrooms are toxic. But how toxic, exactly?"

There are worse things than fresh air and gorging oneself on wild berries I suppose (like gorging oneself on fresh cheese and sausage in the restaurant 50 metres away from the site of our feeding frenzy, which also served those same berries in pie-form). Nonetheless, I am not ashamed to admit I wept like a baby this morning when I had to negotiate the four flights of stairs in my building after discovering my legs had been replaced overnight with those of an arthritic octogenarian.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Heidelberg, Basel, Springfield

Heidelberg, about which this post is not, really.

It's been a while since I've written about travelling around our neck of the woods. We were in Basel again this weekend, to see the Tinguely Museum, which showcases the Rube Goldberg like devices of artist Jean Tinguely. They were awesome, and as soon as I have a workshop, time, and some facilty with electronic motors I fully intend to make some mechanized art of my own, though I'd probably stop short of making a skull-bedecked automobile of death.

After having been properly cultured (and purchasing an honest-to-goodness Tinguely of our own, coutesy of his "drawing machine" and the aesthetic advice of two Swiss toddlers), we went to see the Simpson's Movie.

This, I am unashamed to admit, was the chief purpose of the visit for me, as it didn't play here in English and Basel is only 90 minutes away by train. Yes, I travelled to a completely different country in order to see a movie that was based on a television programme I barely watched. It was pretty good, but the funniest line came from the British kids sitting behind us who, at the end of the movie, asked "Who is Tom Hanks?" Also amusing: the movie, predictably enough for Switzerland, started right on time, and had a ten-minute intermission for a chocolate gathering break. Very civilized.

As to the title of the post: went to Heidelberg, Germany a couple of weeks ago. It's a nice university town. Our friend Dominique* took us and showed us around, as she'd studied there years before. It's nestled in a river valley, and guarded by an enormous castle which contains, for some reason I cannot determine, Germany's national pharmacy museum. It also had the largest wine-barrel in Germany which, as you can imagine, is a very large wine barrel indeed. Bigger even than a breadbox.

Heidelberg, with castle in the hills, taken from the "Philospher's Walk." At least, I think it was the Philosopher's Walk, therefore it was.

*The very generous and cultured Dominique is French Belgian, with all that this implies. We were at a dinner with her recently where she started to bash the Dutch national cuisine, saying"Those people will just eat anything!" with such vehement disdain as to cause me to re-evaluate my own tendency to consider this very quality as one of my more attractive traits as a dinner guest.