Archive for September, 2011

November spawned a Monster


In exactly one month I shall already be in the air, having departed from Paris CDG heading towards Shanghai on a China Eastern flight with the final destination of Sydney. I hinted that something big was happening in this post in June. JTO was not overjoyed at our Oz 2011 trip getting the name Monster. That earlier post was written in June just after the tickets for the trip had just been bought and if I was excited then I am, perhaps unsurprisingly, even more excited now.

We arrive on 1st November and after a night in a hotel head off to experience one of the country’s most important, if not the most important, sporting occasion, the Melbourne Cup. Whilst not at the racecourse it is such an important event that it is celebrated across the country. Then the first of four wine trips to the Hunter Valley, NSW‘s premier wine-producing region and somewhere I’ve not been before. Back in time to meet up with wider family on 5th November. (Though with no fireworks) The day after we leave to one of the few cities I’ve not visited in my four previous trips downunder, Adelaide. Here we’ll meet friends and visit the vineyards you are most likely to have drank wine from, if you’ve ever had any Australian wine outside the country. All the time staying at a beach-front motel in Glenelg. We leave there very early in the morning to do a three-day, two night tour along the Great Ocean Road to Melbourne, a city we both love and we’ll have a few days here, including a visit to the Yarra Valley vineyards, before taking the night ferry to Tasmania, another part of the country I’ve never visited before. We’re planning to hire a camper-van to explore the island, visit the two other main cities and, of course, visit the vineyards. As the climate in Tasmania is closer to that in Alsace I’m expecting the vineyards and the wine they produce to the closest in the country to those here at home. We return to the mainland on the ferry overnight, I just love travelling by ferry or train overnight; have a couple of drinks at the bar then go back to you cabin and be rocked to sleep and then wake-up in a new city. Fantastic. We’re still planning how to get back to Sydney from Melbourne but the current favourite is to do it by rail as it would allow us to stop off and visit family at Shellharbour and near Sutherland before returning to Sydney for a few days before our return journey on 27th November.(Boo)

One thing is for certain Oz 2011 spawned a monster of a blog, enjoy:

A matter of inches


At the weekend the British cycling team  won the the world road race to, as RoadCyclingUK said “cap (a) historic week for British cycling” topping the medal table at the World Championships in Copenhagen with six medals, including two golds. A fantastic performance to win the road race but also to win all the medals. I think not enough congratulations have gone to the British team for their outstanding performance over the week that has seen them as the most feared team at the World Championships, so I wanted to add mine.

As Matt Slater reports on the BBC the victory margin for Mark Cavendish was “a matter of inches” but the team as a whole dominated the race. On a day when some of the people I follow on soical media have ben busy with a speech. Elsewhere on a site celebrating speech, that I was first pointed to this week, there is one which also talks about inches. I’ve not seen the film but it is a good speech with a good delivery by Al Pacino, enjoy:

La rentrée II


As I hinted at yesterday there is a large element of people in France doing the same thing at the same time. People go away for their holiday at the beginning of July or the beginning of August. Like all generalisations it is not totally true but there is enough there for it to show a large part of reality. In terms of holidays and others. The beginning of July is still called the “grand depart” (the “big leave”) and there are reports on the TV of the traffic problems heading for the beaches at the beginning of July, the problems of people returning home and others leaving at the end of July/beginning of August and then the return at the end of August. People all go running at 7:30 in the morning, unless it is a holiday when everyone seems to go for a run at 10:30.

As I said yesterday, we are now in la rentrée and there are so many events taking place across Strasbourg to celebrate the return, Bilbliothèques idéales 2011, Les Terres à l’envers, 4ème édition du Festival européen du film fantastique, Projection du documentaire “La leçon de cathédrale”, and Le Village culturel 2011 all taking place. There are a number of events organised in the area where I live but yesterday I went to Cité Spach (and here)where the road had been closed, as can be seen from the picture at the top. People had come for a picnic but some people had bought food and were providing it for other local people, as seen with the couple providing the barbeque. There were also pictures taken by a local photographer of the area and local people, including one of a local, Elisabeth, at the Place D’Islande tram stop she is showing JTO above. Elisabeth is the person who we can thank for the invite to the event is active in the Anglican church in Strasbourg and local members of the congregation can be seen in the picture above. There were other things happening, other picture displays, other people providing food and, as we left, a band playing music, middle eastern or klezmer or similar music. I felt welcome in a part of the city I did not know before and saw local people enjoying eating, drinking and listening to music i their street with their neighbours. I was just left to think where else do I know where there would be such social solidarity between neighbours?

La rentrée


In July or August, large parts of France slow down or close up shop completely. The children are no longer at school, the government head off to their Summer homes and the beaches, and many restaurants and other businesses close down as well. Most French people go on holiday for all or part of either month – the worst times for traffic jams are the ‘grand depart’ at the beginning of July and the beginning of August when the Julyists return home and the Augustians head off on their holiday.

All of which means that la rentrée, in September, is more than just students and teachers going back to school; it’s also everyone else returning home and going back to work, returning to normality. It is nice that rather than the Summer ending quietly and people slipping back to work with just the return of children to school much more of an event is made of the whole thing.

One of the major institutions in Strasbourg is the Council of Europe and last night was their rentrée party. For an organisation that represents 47 countries in Europe, and on its fringes, the theme this year was of course the Antilles. Hence the dancers above who performed twice whilst I was there, and were comprised of people who do the Antilles dancing on Fridays at the Council of Europe.

On arrival there was food, but it was coming to the end of being served, and unfortunately we missed the speeches! We met some friends, failed to partake of the punch (pictured) chosing Cremant as our poison of choice, and chatted before the very good dancing happened, after which people took to the dance floor to shake a leg. Around which time, neither of us having our dancing shoes on, we made our excuses and left.

New mosque completed


Eighteen months ago I posted about the Grand Mosquée de Heyritz had remained unbuilt from the time I arrived in Strasbourg in September 2007 and looked like work had not taken place there for some time. Then in May 2009 work started again. During a bike ride I posted a photo showing progress with the building here.

Last week was the end of Ramadan and on Friday cycling back from work I again passed the mosque and noticed that it looked completed. The car park was starting to fill up and the there were one or two stalls. I remembered the celebrations at the Friday at the end of Ramadan 2011 had been the target date for the celebrations for the opening of the mosque. I was a bit early for Friday prayers and unfortunately was not able to hang around for the opening. But on Sunday there is an interfaith walk I am planning to take part in starting at the synagogue (pictured here) and finishing at the mosque so I may have pictures of it then.

Is it a bird, is it a plane?


I’m taking a bit of a rest from fist-up at the moment so I thought I would write a few things about the local neighbourhood. There seems to be a new resident across the street and when he moved in work was done to the balcony. Then in the Spring some plant pots arrived. It was touch and go a couple of strong storms and the resident was out on the balcony making sure the pots didn’t go. There wasn’t much really to look at when I went away for work at the end of June. But just look at it now what a wonderful riot of living colour.(TM JTO) You can see what he was doing when he protected the plants from the storm.

I couldn’t write about the wonderousness of the plants opposite without also talking about the ones on our own balcony. The first one you see is the one on the left of our balcony. When I went away it contained two or three onions. Unfortunately they came to nothing which you cannot say about this picture. The second picture is of the flowers in the middle. There are   blue and red flowers in it. The last picture is facing the first picture across the street so it need to put on the best show, which I think it does. The street could be quite grey and drab but with these all along the street it quite lifts the heart.

I was going to write a piece about the wonders of the displays on balconies on the street and on our own balcony. Then yesterday I went out onto the balcony to take in some of the sun and have a watch of things going on up and down the street. I had hardly got out there when something happened which had me rocking back towards the flat and starting to take a defensive position. What was it? Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Look at this clip and you’ll find out:

No, as you can see, it’s a crane. It didn’t help keep up the suspense much that the person who loaded the video up to YouTube titled it the Crane, bit of a give-away that! I walked through the arch of a building opposite to us and a bit further down the street from the one with the display and saw a massive building site I knew nothing of. If you’re talking developments since the end of June well that’s one. I didn’t have my camera with me so you’ll have to wait till another day for pictures. I hope you can.

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