27 August 2009
We have had another excellent summer in a new part of France. The Alsace region is absolutely wonderful with a little bit of everything to offer. We've done out best to take advantage of our time here while at the same time spending a lot of 'down' time at the house. Of course, having such a nice house for nearly two months has helped. Leif and Keira -- the owners -- spent nearly two months traveling around Africa with their two children. Last night we got to hear all about their adventures over a very nice dinner (I talk about that in the next post) and when they get their blog up and running I'll be sure to link to it. Some of their stories are amazing. But it was because they were going to be away that they decided to rent out their home while they were gone and we were lucky enough to find it on the internet. We're thankful we found a place that was so great for the kids -- and us. We're also happy that we got so spend a lot of time with Kerri's parents during their visit. On top of that we were able to catch-up with friends in Frankfurt and (kind of) Copenhagen. All this can be found in the July/August posts if you keep scrolling down (I'm sure you will!).
A big THANK YOU to everyone who played a part in our adventures this summer. It was a summer we'll remember for a long, long time. Now it's time to head back South!
We went to dinner with the family that owns the house that we stayed in this summer. We ate at a wonderful restaurant called Lauth-et-Fils in the beautiful village of -- and I'm not making this up -- Scharrachbergheim. The village is just outside Strasbourg near the top of the Alsace Wine Route. Lauth-et-Fils specializes in tarte flambée and they do their specialty very, very well. I can't remember the names of all the flambées we tried, but suffice it to say they were loaded with creme fraiche, various French cheeses (the meunster was my favorite) and lots of onions. The Edel was good as well (good luck finding that in the US, people tell us).
So what is tarte flambée/flammenkueche? Here's Wikipedia:
It is an Alsatian dish composed of thin bread dough rolled out in a circle or a rectangle, which is covered by crème fraîche, onions and meat. It is one of the most famous gastronomical specialties of the region. Depending on the region, this dish can be called in Alsatian flammekueche, in German Flammkuchen, or in French tarte flambée. The name itself comes from this method of baking, the English translation of the original Alsatian name being "baked in the flames."One of the best parts of the meal was the sweet apple flammekueche that came out for dessert. But the added bonus was that out waitress added the apple liquor at the table and then lit it so that the entire tarte was in flames for about 5 or 6 seconds. I took a photo right at this moment, but as you can see it is poor quality and the flames don't really show up. You may be able to barely see evidence of fire in the top-left corner.
It was a great night of Alsatian dining with our new friends Leif and Keira (and Dina, of course). In typical French fashion, the meal lasted most of the night. Our reservations were for 7:00 and we left at about 11:00.
There are a couple missing, but most of them are there (although I wish I could get a better quality photo when I upload using blogger. Ideas?) We'll be hard pressed to keep-up our summer pace once school/work starts next week. But it was a lot of fun to get into the 'habit' of reading again.
26 August 2009
Sounds over-simplified at first reading, but after thinking about it -- probably pretty good advice.
Scratch off the appetizers and entrees that are most like dishes you’ve seen in many other restaurants, because they represent this one at its most dutiful, conservative and profit-minded. The chef’s heart isn’t in them.
Scratch off the dishes that look the most aggressively fanciful. The chef’s vanity — possibly too much of it — spawned these.
Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil.
Choose among the remaining dishes.
24 August 2009
"Drive Thru! Drive Thru!" the kids chanted in the backseat. "Oh yes," Kerri added with a hint of amusement in her voice. "Let's try the Drive-Thru."
This was clearly a set-up and I knew it. Everyone in the car knew that if we opted for the Drive-Thru I would have to order and everyone knew that if I had to order there would be ample opportunity to make fun of me when I was done. I knew that's what they all wanted -- to laugh at me as I tried to order in a language I don't speak. What I didn't know (at the time) was that Kerri planned to videotape my efforts.
If I had known I would have parked the car and ordered inside.
23 August 2009
I don't speak the language, but my gut tells me that 'fahrt' means something else in German.
22 August 2009
20 August 2009
It has actually been a beautiful summer so far with very few days that were uncomfortable. In fact, yesterday and today were probably the only two days where the heat was strong enough to make the inside of the house a bit uncomfortable. We got out of the house yesterday and explored Heidleberg, Germany for the afternoon and today we beat the heat by eating an early dinner at...IKEA! The good news is that relief is coming...Friday. Friday's high temperature is forecast to be 68 F (20 C). That's quite a swing for 24 hours. I sense thunderstorms.
19 August 2009
Up close during warm-ups
This entire section filled up at the 15:00 mark; but it was empty at the start. Rough translation: '15 minutes of absence because of years of incompentence by players and management.' We need this at FedEx Field in Washington, DC
This is a little awkward, but we should probably just get it out there before the bank releases the information: we're probably on this list. Our millions are sitting in a bank in Zurich and it's probably better to reveal that information on our own terms rather than waiting for the BBC to out us later today.
There. That feels like a weight being lifted from our shoulders.
(How do you think we paid for our 2001 Renault Scenic?)
17 August 2009
One of the first things the 'locals' told us when we moved to Strasbourg for the summer was to do all our shopping across the border in Germany. C'est moins cher! And it's true. Prices just across the border in the town of Kehl are (sometimes, not always) up to 30% cheaper than in France. And that goes for just about any kind of product you can think of: clothes, food, household goods, ice cream cones, shoes. One particular store that the French love is called DM (yes, just DM -- but it actually stands for Drogerie Markt) and it specializes in 'personal' items such as hair products, perfumes, soaps, make-up; but it also has a wide selection of organic products like cereals, coffee and juices. At DM you can find these kinds of products at 1/2 the price in France.
But normal food is cheaper as well. I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about. This afternoon Julia and I strolled into Aldi's (a store we can find in France) and filled our cart with 45 items -- standard items like tomatoes, red peppers, fruit, juice, canned foods, bread, milk, eggs, cheeses, chips -- and proceeded to the checkout area. Not a huge shopping trip, but stocking-up on some of the essentials. As the lady was scanning our food I was trying to guess what the total would be (come on, you do it too!) and was preparing for a bill around 50 or 60 Euros -- not too bad for what we were buying. But the total came it quite a bit under my estimate: €34.60. Now, I don't do math very often, but a quick bit of figuring tells me that we averaged about 0.75 per item. And I'm telling you, I was buying 'regular' stuff and we had four very full bags when we left. A close look at my receipt revealed that the most expensive item I purchased was some French cheese for €1.99.
I'm trying to figure out why a store in Strasbourg (France) and the same store across the Rhine in Kehl (Germany) can have such a variance in price. Some of it is surely the product itself (I was buying German butter not French butter; Germany potato chips not French potato chips, etc.) but there must be more to it -- something more, shall we say, institutional. I'll have to get to the bottom of it. Perhaps some of you know.
Meanwhile, we find ourselves wishing the South of France was a little closer to Germany.
Oh, and by the way, the people in front of us and behind us in the checkout line?: French.
16 August 2009
Late Update: Well, that was incredible. 9.58 seconds? That is simply stunning. Patrick and Julia were pretty excited to see that race.
14 August 2009
So how can you sleep like a French woman? Mireille Guiliano explains:
- Move, move, move during the day.
- Stay away from stimulants such as coffee, nicotine or alcohol.
- Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
- Reserve the bedroom for sleeping only. (Get the TV out of the bedroom! And the desk!)
- Herbal teas work magic.
- Turn off the lights earlier; your body needs to wind down.
- Turn off computers and TVs at least 30 minutes (1 hour is better) before bed; your brain needs to wind down
- If you can't get to sleep in 30 minutes, get up and read a book.
- No big meals right before bed.
- Create an environment that is conducive to sleep (dark, well ventilated, etc.)
If you'd like a more detailed description of each number on the list you can find it here.
13 August 2009
Now that we're back from Paris I've had a chance to 1) watch some news on TV, 2) read some news on the internet. This morning two things caught my attention since they both relate to our lives in France.
- The first item is kind of 'macro' in the sense that it has to do with our lives in very general terms: France and Germany are officially out of the receission after both countries posted GDP growth in the last quarter. That's simplifiying things quite a bit, but the growth was unexpected since most analysts were predicting a 2-3% downturn this year. The 0.03% growth in France was welcome news for Christine Lagarde, France's Minister of Economic Affairs. (Namedrop Alert/Full Disclosure: Christine Lagarde's neice is a student of mine.)
- Now for something a bit more 'micro' -- in other words, something that will actually impact our lives: France's parliament has given final approval to a law allowing more businesses to stay open Sundays. Wahoo! I know this is a touchy issue for some in France, but for greedy, gruby Americans like us, this is welcome news. I mean, all we really want to do is contribute to the global economic recovery by buying some crap we probably don't need...on Sundays. Is that so wrong?
I probably shouldn't be so light-hearted in my discussion of France's Sunday labor laws; it really is a big issue here. You'll find another perspective here, which is worth a read if your interested (or if you live here). Many in France value the idea of 'rest' on one day of the week (indeed, the original law passed over 100 years ago established Sunday as a 'day of rest'). For them the idea of running around shopping on Sunday is in-and-of-itself an assult on the French way of life. Consider this paragraph:
Dissenters, meanwhile, denounce the law as a threat to an array of social and cultural traditions rooted in one day being a day of rest. They warn that family gatherings, leisure activities and even church attendance will suffer greatly as people are forced to don the dominical yoke of labor. Where will the next Renoir get his inspiration for another Bal du Moulin de la Galette? What would Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte be without the Sunday bit? And how to defend the colors against the neighborhood rival if your goalkeeper and best center forward are down at the mall selling garden furniture?
Of course, this is all really just a matter of nuance since many shops and businesses are already open on Sundays (cafes, shops, restaurants). All this law really means is that all businesses will now have the option to treat Sunday like any other day.
11 August 2009
09 August 2009
- golf (haven't played once since I've been here).
- 6:30am Friday morning breakfasts with best buddies at the Tastee Diner (my favorite part of the work week).
- 30 minutes with a newspaper each morning (I love the Washington Post).
- ties (sounds crazy, but I used to wear a jacket and tie virtually every day and I kind of miss it. Since we moved to France I've worn a tie exactly once! And that includes church).
- talk radio (yes, that's what I used to listen to in the car -- mostly sports talk radio. iTunes has allowed for a little relief in this area)
I'm sure I could come up with a more pretentious sounding list -- you know, one with more depth and intellect -- but that would just be silly.
Late Update: my brother wants to know why I didn't mention perhaps the biggest thing I've given up: ice hockey. I can watch (tv/internet) and I can see games live (Allez Nice), but I can't play! I have no good reason for this oversight -- probably should be number 1.
What fun! Thanks for the hospitality guys. We had a wonderful time seeing the city and visiting with you. We'll get together again soon. Here's just a few photos (sorry, Thomas -- you and I didn't make the cut this time).
07 August 2009
It was a terrific day and one that I'm sure all three of us will remember for a long time. And if we forget, we'll just watch this video:
Late Update: a reader ponits out that I may have the name of the Chateau wrong. There are dozens along the route so it's quite possible I'm off by one or two, but I'm too lazy to look it up now.
06 August 2009
Late Update: Appears as if the story above in inaccurate. 329 isn't even close to the record for balloon launches according to several reports in other newspapers (and at least one emailer!) Oh well, sorry Chambley.
05 August 2009
04 August 2009
03 August 2009
02 August 2009