Hello dear friends and family! I’m writing this post from Riquewihr, a redonkulously adorable town in the hills of the Alsace region of France (which used to be Germany, and then it was France, and then it was Germany again, and now it’s France. So it’s kind of France-y/Germany.) Luke would like to add that this region is named after a dog (Alsation), which is definitely incorrect. The last couple of days we’ve been meandering down the Route des Vins d’Alsace, the Alsace region wine trail. It’s so lovely that we have grown weary. “Hilltop castle on the right. No need to stop. Only 50 more technicolour half-timber medieval villages to go, yes, this one is covered in blooming roses as well. Let’s not bother visiting that quaint boulangerie, I’m too full from the last one.” However, we did visit a market in the church square of Obernai that has been happening every Thursday since 1301, so that’s a thing.
Side note – every person we’ve met in France has been lovely. Super friendly. We think the stereotype that French are jerks might be wrong.
As before, I’ll just give you a few anecdotes and then some photos. A word of warning: Felice the destroyer strikes again. I lost the camera, probably. So, you’ll have to suffer through some iPhone photos on this post, until we can get ourselves a new camera. I do apologize for any discomfort caused to anyone’s aesthetic sensibilities.
A friendly reminder: there is a panel on the right hand side (or bottom) of your page that lists our activities, so I won’t repeat it in this post.
The social media effect
I’m sure you’ve all heard me talk about how social media can be depressing, because folks only post photos of them looking happy in scenic places, surrounded by stylish friends and with their arms posed to look as skinny as possible. The photos don’t show the crap they experience that day. Given that I am only posting such photos (minus the arm thing – I don’t know how to do that), in the spirit of transparency, I would like to dedicate this post to: The Story Behind the Photos.
On our second night camping, we snuggled into our cozy blankets, our backs loving the full mattress, and drifted into peaceful slumber as we listened to the last bleetings of the lambs in a nearby paddock. A few hours later, I was woken by a bucket of water, directly to the face. I’m not, for once, exaggerating. It seems that water had pooled in the over-car tarp, and the wind caught it just right, and pushed the bucket o’water through the gap we had left in the sunroof (for lovely cool air and a delightful breeze!), landing on my face. Only my face. Not Luke’s face. Not the pillow, except for where it flew off of my face and onto the pillow. Not the front seat, not the doona, just my face. Thankfully, I was able to laugh at it almost immediately. We now keep the sunroof closed at night.
A few days ago we spent the day at a hospital in Nancy, and, despite being dismally unphotogenic, it was was one of our favourite experiences so far. Backing up, we decided to get our vaccinations for tick-borne encephalitis (it is as nasty as it sounds) here in Europe, as it was astronomically expensive in the good ol’ US of A. We got the first round in London, and decided to try our luck with the second round on the continent. This was a hilarious decision. I made an appointment over the phone in French (yes, I am very pleased with myself, thank you), and we accidentally arrived two hours early (no, my French is not as good as I thought, shut up). The doctor saw us early. When I asked “Parlez-vous Anglais, s’il-vous-plait?”, his answer was, “NO! NO! NO!”. This was not rude, it was just really, really true. We conducted the whole appointment in charades. There was lots of laughing, gesticulating wildly, and using words that I would describe as Franglais. At one point, the doctor was holding his ears with his fingers, shaking his head wildly – trying to tell us that when we take out a tick, we need to get the head out. He also once barked like a dog to try to explain rabies. He then mimed reaching his hand out to an imaginary dog (saying, “ahhh, mignon!! [cute]), and then, suddenly stern, slapped his own hand back, saying, “Non!!”. We took this to mean we should not pet dogs in Russia. In the end, we got our vaccinations (don’t worry, I triple checked it was right). When the doctor dropped us off to the administration lady to pay, he said, in French, “They do not speak French, but they understand very, very well.” I take this as the highest compliment.
Now for something darker: the Bastogne war museum
I’m embarrassed to say that three days ago, I knew almost nothing about the Battle of Bulge, one of the last big confrontations of WWII, which took the lives of a huge number of soldiers (German and American) and civilians. I’m not going to describe every museum that we visit, as that would be super boring. However, I will say that I was crying – like the wheezing kind – by the end of it. The museum is in chronological order, from the end of WWI to the end of WWII, and follows the story of four historical characters – a German soldier, an American soldier, a young Belgian boy living in Nazi-occupied Bastogne, and a young Belgian woman who works for the underground anti-Nazi resistance. This perspective reminds us of the very true cliche that war is not just numbers of people dead, weapons developed, or territories taken, but is made and lived by people who are really quite normal.
I was also touched by the monument outside the museum (the Mardasson), which pays tribute to the American soldiers who liberated Bastogne, and the rest of the valley, from the Nazis. I think sometimes we Americans are so insular that we forget we are tied in bonds of life and death friendship with peoples around the world.
Let’s just hope their nice opinion of us isn’t swayed too much by a certain straw-headed potato. (Public service announcement – please tell everyone you know – trump means to fart in British English. Gratitude to Nick for this informative lil’ nugget.)
Lots of love to you all! Thank you very much for your comments, they make us very happy. Until next time!
Belgium and Luxembourg