Archive for September, 2010

Weekend World part 3 – welcome to Paris

24/09/2010

Yesterdays post finished with our taking our leave of Bristol via a bus to the airport.  Thanks to the time difference it was early evening when we arrived at Roissy airport (better known to most of us as Charles De Gaulle or CDG) but there should still have been time for us to get to our central hotel and our intended destination that night _ I have a particular reason to visit that premises which will become clearer over time.  I still thought there was no problem with the time when we found that there were replacement buses for the RER to Paris.  After having queued for ages that optimism was staring to evaporate when a couple of buses came and we ended up near the front of the queue.  Whilst waiting for the next bus someone nearby asked why there seemed such trouble with the bus service and the SNCF official said that it was because there were too many “Anglais” wanting to use it.  He backtracked on this slightly when I questioned him but I was rather stunned by this example of casual French discrimination.  We spent the rest of the journey railing against the casual French discrimination which we had plenty of time to do as the bus journey, eventual RER journey, getting to our hotel an getting something to eat meant we would have missed most of the show at the Lapin Agile so It will have to wait for a future visit.

The next morning we got up at a leisurely pace and thought we’d walk from the Gare du Nord where our hotel was to the Gare de l’Est where we would catch our train in the early evening, drop off our bags and then explore Paris.  We got there to have a haughty and rude brush off with another example of French customer service from SNCF.  The left luggage was closed and if we wanted to use one we’ have to go to, you’ve guessed it Gare du Nord.  So we battled our way onto the Metro and went back to the Gare du Nord where a Eurostar had just arrived so the queue for the left luggage, when we found it. had been swelled as well as getting the now all too familiar Parisian service.

We left the station and walked up the wonderfully named Boulevard Magenta in wonderful sunshine to the junction with the Boulevard De Rochechouart where there is the fantastically coloured clothes shop, TATI, in the second picture above.  On the walk up to the junction and when we turned left into Boulevard De Rochechouart there were loads of shops selling smart shirts, suits and wedding dresses then we passed the wonderful Magenta Mariage (pictured) who seem to provide the full service.  So in one street you get the clothes and have the whole ceremony.  Further on we passed loads of shops selling material and I was later told that the area has a high Jewish population, particularly North African Jewish population who have amongst their midst a lot of people in what I would call the ‘Rag trade’.

When we came to the Square L. Michel the weather was wonderful – a gorgeous cloud-free sky showing off the Sacré–Cœur at its best.  I climbed up and enjoyed the view out over a sunny but hazy Paris pretty much made the hassle over the past 24 hours from the SNCF staff worthwhile.  I walked around a bit at the top and then we had something to eat at a restaurant at the bottom of the hill which allowed for some great people watching of the different nationalities visiting the site, tour parties an their interaction with each other and one of those people who make their face up, put a sheet on and ‘make like a statue’.  Afterwards we walked back to Gare Du Nord collected our bags and walked to Gare de l’Est where there was still some time left before the return train to Strasbourg so there was only one place to while away the remaining hour, where we of course managed to get a bottle of Cremant d’Alsace which helped make the time before the trip go much more pleasantly.

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Weekend World part 2 – Bristol

22/09/2010

It was just getting dark as we arrived at Bristol Airport and got onto the bus that took us the twenty minute/half hour ride into the centre of the city.  We booked into our hotel then walked through a park next to a roofless church, over the river and a left turn took us to a curry house.  It was not anything special but we had a proper British curry, a chat and a beer and nearby where there were a group of people who work together obviously out for the night in the city, drinking and talking nonsense.  On our return we had both an i-Mac, with a large number of television channels on it, and free wifi in our hotel room so we entertained ourselves before going to sleep.

The next day after a great breakfast in the hotel we walked for a bit before stopping for a coffee and a read of the paper in the Retreat Cafe.  Then we went into the city for some shopping.  There was a festival of the bike taking place  with people in fancy dress riding bikes and performers of various quality at various stages round the city.  It was busy and seemed quite thriving.  The picture on the left shows two cyclists off their bikes and dancing to one of the performers whose power is supplied by the dynamos attached to the other bikes.  They are waving lances having clearly been jousting on bike.  After a walk up Christmas Steps we had a great lunch of Wild Mushroom and Roasted Garlic Penne at the Colston Yard, somewhere I had last been when it was a micro breweries as part of the Smiles chain.  I stayed reading the newspaper whilst JTO had a haircut before returning to the hotel where we had a meal in their restaurant.

The next morning we took it easy, JTO trying out a local church, before. on a recommendation of a native we are friendly with, going to the riverstation for brunch where I had a very nice scrambled eggs and salmon on toast.  It doesn’t look great shakes in the picture but this former station for the river police had great views over the docks.  After a leisurely time were headed back to the railway station to catch the bus back to the airport and return to France.

Parisian walks

21/09/2010

Yesterday, Monday, I returned from a weekend away.  On Friday we caught the TGV to Paris.  We had a few hours to kill before a flight to Bristol which was the destination for the weekend and at the suggestion of Mr London Street we took the Metro from Gare de l’Est to Place de la Bastille.  The famous prison is no longer there having been demolished after the revolution.  A short walk took us to the Place des Vosges a quite stunning square that the French seem to do so well with an equestrian statue of Louis XIII in the middle.  Around the square were homes built intentionally for bourgeois people that, being designed and built at the same time, had a wonderful unity and coherence.  In one corner was the house lived in by Victor Hugo and in another corner was the residence of Cardinal Richelieu before he moved to the Palais-Royal.  We left the park and walked down the main street of the Marais area, Rue des Franc Bourgeois, whose medieval name refers to the Almshouses built in the 14th century for the non tax-paying citizens or francs bourgeois.  The street is lined with 17th century mansions, most of which have been renovated and seem to be in the ownership of the Mayor of Paris, and interesting but largely expensive boutiques and restaurants.  Unfortunately the restaurant I’d been guided to was full so we ate in a restaurant in the Place des Vosges that served really nice food but was a bit expensive.  After lunch we passed some time in a cafe watching the people going by, in the Marais the beautiful, expensively turned out people before heading to the Gare du Nord to get the RER to Aeroport-Charles de Gaulle.

UPDATE:  WHilst looking through my photos and writing about our second visit to Paris I cam across this picture I took whilst we were in the Marais, which I liked when I saw it – even before taking it, and I could not understand why I had not included it here to give more idea and colour for the area so here it is.

At the Velhop

16/09/2010

First came the Facebook page which I was informed of and liked about a month ago.  Then came notice that the Strasbourg stand at the Foire Europeanee (See yesterday) would feature the Velhop.  So, whilst there I hastened along to the stand and had myself pictured there in my rather fetching new jacket and shoes.  THEN came the appearance at the beginning of this week of properties around Strasbourg saying they would be Velhop shops and yesterday came the adverts on the trams saying the Velhop is coming.  As an awareness raising campaign it has been building impressively from social media through to on-street advertising.  I am looking forward to finding out the details of the new city-bike scheme for Strasbourg.  In 1996 when I had some influence over decisions on transport in a large town in the south of England I went to a European Car Free Cities conference in Copenhagen and saw in operation the city-bike scheme there and was intent on setting one up in the relevant town.  History intervened and I was not able to introduce the scheme.  I am surprised at the amount of time it has taken for the scheme to spread to other cities, probably the introduction of such a scheme in Paris by Bertrand Delanoe is what gave the idea momentum.  Strasbourg is the city in France with the highest level of cycling and has been designated the most cycle friendly.  Certainly being flat helps enormously as does the sheer number of on street and separate cycling facilities.  I will be watching interestedly to see how this scheme develops, though as someone with their own bike at home that they use regularly around the cycle-lanes of Strasbourg I don’t expect to be using them very soon.  I am also looking forward to colleagues mentioning the scheme as a judge of it hitting public awareness.

The title for this post is, of course, a corruption, a jokey play, on the title of the song by Danny and the Juniors, ‘At the Hop’ which can be seen below.  Aren’t the 1950’s suits and dance just great.

The song is sung  on the soundtrack of the film Woodstock by Sha-Na-Na(wiki) whose version of the song from the film of Woodstock is posted afterwards.  The two films really are very different, the clothes are very different and the dances are very different.

En garde

15/09/2010

About five years ago I started the predecessor to this blog and chose the title to reflect that part of the subject matter would be about me taking up fencing and my exploits in the world of fencing.  I did take it up for a couple of years with a break when there was work being carried out to the leisure centre where we met.  Then I moved here and there’s been a number of difficulties which have resulted in my three years in France being fencing free.  That is about to change and its all because of the Foire Européenne….

This event happens every year in Strasbourg, this is supposed to be the 78th, and I wrote about it last year here.  Again this year we got tickets to get into the Foire from our local MP and again I start with a picture of the entrance from the nearest tram stop although this time it doesn’t give much indication of the sheer number of people present which was a lot for the middle of the afternoon on a Sunday.  Each year one country is showcased and this year it was Thailand so there were merchants selling things from Thailand, holidays to Thailand etc as well as there being a restaurant selling Thai food.  Having arrived after midday both JTO and I were hungry so we headed over to the Thai restaurant for some Sunday lunch.  The picture on the right was taken after we’d eaten but there were very few free chairs when we arrived.  The food was good and served with a more than acceptable Thai Rose wine but what surprised  the most was being served by Alsacian waiting staff, obviously people used by the exhibition centre when they had something on, rather than the Thai or South East Asian staff I am used to in the restaurants locally and elsewhere when I’ve eaten Thai food.

The whole of a massive exhibition site is taken up showing off things like farm implements, furniture, household heating systems, solar energy systems, TVs and other home appliances, swimming pools, garden furniture, local food and wine, household implements and tools. Basically anything at all.  The next picture shows the outside of the section where the local council, power company, newspaper etc all had stands, the garden sheds for sale in the front and swimming pools on the left.  Behind you can see the European Parliament building.

Inside the Rhenus Sport hall normally home to the Strasbourg basketball team, SIG,  were lots of sports activities.  My heart leapt when I saw that Strasbourg Escrime were present with a display and opportunity to take part.  I talked with them and discovered they were running ‘taster’ sessions on Mondays throughout the month so I took details of where they were from the club coach, pictured on the right.  This predecessor to this blog started when I started fencing and its name, after a children’s TV programme shown in the Summer holidays when I was a child, came from it.(See video at the top on the right)  It is exciting to be thinking about starting back with the fencing, so much so that I felt I just had to close with the following:

Aux armes

12/09/2010

Yesterday was the “Le grand derby de l’est” Le Racing Club de Strasbourg against Sports Reunis Colmar, the capital of 67 versus the capital of 68.(see here)  My previous report from a match showed the corner of the ground where the strongest Strasbourg fans, the ones who travel to the away games and are known as the Ultra Boys, stand.  This time JTO and I sat in amongst them.  In my time the equivalent supporters in the UK didn’t have the facilities the ones here do.  The leaders of the chanting/singing have a microphone and pa to do it through, they get help with money towards the banners that are displayed at the beginning of a match though I don’t think they got help with the flares that were let off at the beginning and end of the game.  The atmosphere in that section was great and I now understand a lot more of the chants that previously I had heard but not understood.  The first picture shows the leaders off the singing getting the fans going.  It can’t be too great for them as they spend the whole match looking at their fellow fans rather than watching the match.  It is a strange kind of support for a team to go to the match and spend the whole time looking away from it.  There are others who go , the stewards, Police etc and spend their time at the game without watching it but they are paid to do so, yet these ‘Ultra’ fans go to the match and are dedicated ans but spend the whole game not watching it.  The title of this piece comes from the beginning of the chorus of the French National Anthem, La Marseillaise, which was written in Strasbourg – something not known by too many French people.  The picture on the left shows the composer, Rouget de Lisle, singing it for the first time at the home of Dietrich, Mayor of Strasbourg at the time.  Aux armes is a call and response between the Ultra Boys and the rest of the crowd which drew a good response yesterday.

At half time there were matches between the two youth teams of Strasbourg and Colmar.  This is shown in the second picture.  I was struck by the skill of these pre-teen players.  There was no kick and run as in my day but they passed, played one-twos, the level of skill for me was quite astonishing.

The most important thing to report though is that le Racing won 2-0 and have started their season.  Times past the team have always started well and been near the top of the table by this time.  This season they have not started badly, only one defeat and three draws before yesterday, but now hopefully they will get confidence and improve.  The next match is away to Paris FC who were top of the table till this weekend, we’ll see how things stand after that.

The importance and significance of numbers and dates?

08/09/2010

Today is 8th September 2010, as my mother would say, “all day”.  Probably more distinctive as 08/09/10, though if you’re American this date of this year happened last month.  Since the 1st February 2003 in Europe we’ve had a 11 year opportunity for a day each year with a date that has a consecutive serious of numbers until 11th December 2013. (In the US they get 12 as they started with the second of January 2003, 01/02/03 and will finish with 13 December 2014 or 12/13/14.)  There also continue to be other date number sequences, for example the first of February 2034 which is 01/02/34.

Apart from the pleasing appearance of the natural sequence showing an order is there any other relevance?   I don’t think so.  Some Numerologists think that it is the sum of the dates which is more important, one example being here who says there is a spiritual meaning to numbers and that the sum of the date produces a single number which can be used to predict the future.  For today the prediction is equal to 08+09+2+0+1+0 = 20 =2+0= 2 giving the answer:

“Two: The symbolic meaning of number Two is kindness, balance, tact, equalization, and duality. The number Two reflects a quiet power of judgment, and the need for planning. Two beckons us to choose. The spiritual meaning of number Two also deals with exchanges made with others, partnerships (both in harmony and rivalry), and communication. Two urges us out of our indecision, calls us to unite with like-minds, and like-ideals. Two asks us to exert our natural flow of judgment to do what is best for our souls.”

Well, you pay your money and take your choice but its not my cup of coffee.  Here and here are other sites on the same topic.

Something I have found significant came from teaching the date in English and the contrast between British and American English.  I usually explain the difference in the date systems by reference to 9/11.  We all know the importance(wiki) of 11th September 2001 in America, as I believe  and unless I am corrected, the first and most major attack upon American civilians upon American soil.  Few people remember the importance of 9/11 for the people of Europe.  The 9th November 1989 (wiki) (here & here) saw the fall of the Berlin wall and the end of of the artificial division of Europe, the continent becoming whole again and freedom, human rights and the rule of law being a norm for all the people of my continent.  So 9/11 same numbers but important in different ways for different days in the American and European date system.  Is this meaning for the same date mean it is important in some way as a date?  I don’t think so, the importance for me is what happened on the date, which is what makes 11/9 important as well as 9/11.

How were we to know, living dead celebrations on our wedding anniversary

06/09/2010

The arrival of the first card congratulating myself and JTO on the eleventh anniversary of our wedding on 11th September 1999 allows me to post something about the day.  When we chose the date in 1999 we, of course, had no idea what would happen in 2001.  It just fitted in with our work at the time for us to get married then and leave on honeymoon after.  We actively chose 11th September 2001 to be on a plane heading to Australia with the intention, that never materialised, to start the flight celebrating our second anniversary.  Plans are afoot for events this weekend to celebrate, however, it looks like we will not be able to take part in a couple of other events taking place in Strasbourg at the weekend.

Whilst walking back from work today I saw a poster advertising events and they jumped out at me because they featured the date 11th September rather prominently.  I managed to take the poster down, it had been stuck with sellotape at the corners rather than being glued on – a much more considerate standard of fly-posting than you usually get – and it is now stuck to the back of our door at home.

I expect we will miss the Zombie Walk as we currently have plans to be doing something else at the time.  I must admit that I was not aware that I missed the first Zombie Walk last year.

Later the same evening there is a Zombies Ball that I think we will also miss.

Both these events are being organised as part of the third Strasbourg European Festival of Horror Films that takes place between 14th and 19th September.  As well as the two things above there is a book signing at 16:00 on Saturday at FNAC by what in English would be called two horror comic book artists which doesn’t capture the importance attached to this art form here, Charlie Adlard (Walking Dead) and Phil Winslade (Goddess).  There will then be a season of horror films at the three town centre cinemas between 14th and 19th September.

I did just ask myself a question about whether anyone had questioned the wisdom of having events celebrating the living dead was appropriate on the same day as people in the US remember thousands of people been killed.


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