Saturday, January 19, 2008

Overnight Guest

This past week we had a somewhat unexpected visitor: Mark's brother Steve, who works for the Certified Management Accountants of Canada. He was in India for meetings, and when he found out that Strasbourg is only 87 miles from Frankfurt (one of his stopovers) he made arrangements to visit us. This entailed a flurry of emails back and forth between Mark and Steve. At one point Mark worriedly asked me to interpret one of Steve's messages, thinking that we had the date wrong and that Steve would arrive in Strasbourg in 15 minutes instead of the 24 hours we thought we had! It turns out that Steve tracks the plane from the moment it leaves the previous departure point so that he knows if his flight will leave on time. We'd never heard of that before, and it gave us a bit of a start! You might understand by now that we had a bit of cleaning to do. : )

After Steve arrived we had a very convivial afternoon and evening together. In the afternoon we condensed the whole tour of Strasbourg down to Petite France and the Notre Dame cathedral with a side of Place Kléber and Place de l'Homme de Fer on the way home. In the evening we had our traditional raclette and then watched with amazement as Steve managed to stay up until 10:30 p.m., despite the change in time zones and his only getting 4 hours of sleep on the plane the night before.

In the morning I had to rush off to French language school, but Mark and the kids had another short visit with Steve before escorting him back to the train station for his 10:49 a.m. departure to Frankfurt. All in all, it was a great visit, partly due to the fact that it was so unexpected, but mostly due to the fact that Steve is such a super guy (you can correct me on any of this if you like, Steve, as I can always edit my posts.) : )

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Here's a short clip of an ambulance going by on our busy street:

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Musée d'Arts Moderne et Contemporain

Last Sunday we visited Strasbourg’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. In an effort by the French government to get more people out to museums, one can visit them for free on the first Sunday of each month. (I have read that they will be running a trial with 14 museums to include more free days).

It’s probably a good thing that we didn’t read about the museum in the Michellin Guide before we went, because I’m not sure I would have gone if I had! As it was, we gave ourselves about two hours, which is our maximum tolerance for standing around quietly staring at other people’s interpretations of “Sunset” or “Infinity” – and that’s just the adults. : ) We planned to be there right for the 10 a.m. opening in order to escape the hordes of people that we were sure would show up. However, owing to our usual inability to get everyone out the door in a timely manner (Mark says it’s like herding cats), we arrived at the museum about 30 minutes after opening. We had a bit of trouble getting in – we weren’t sure how the door worked, and there was no one around so we didn’t really know where to go. Once we got in through the cool circular entranceway, however, were treated to our free tickets and an almost empty museum through which to roam.

The museum holds both temporary and permanent items. We saw a photography exhibit; theatre, travel and newspaper posters from 1890-1910; paintings by Gustave Doré, who was born in Strasbourg; and many strange contemporary art installations including some dirty dish towels hanging from a rack, and an almost full-sized but completely empty house. Here are our favourites:

Cameron: a large installation of fluorescent lights tacked up on scrap plywood and two-by-fours that spans three rooms in the museum.

Mark: A copy of Rodin’s The Thinker. When we visited France two years ago, Mark was disappointed not to be able to go to Calais where he thought The Thinker was housed. (I find out now that it's at the Musée Rodin in Paris). He’s had a yen to see it ever since he read a book about Rodin’s life many years ago. It might not be the real thing, but it was neat to see anyway!

Meghan: A large contemporary painting.

Chris: It’s a toss-up between the stained-glass window panels and the tiled walls. Both of them appeal to the geometer in me.

We spent just over two hours at the museum and went home in time for lunch. It was a good morning. Part of the charm was that it was free, but we were all happily surprised by the interesting variety of art that we saw.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

We had an amazing New Year's Eve! We were up until 1:30 a.m. listening to and watching all of the crazy French people light their fireworks and fire crackers in the street. (They were still at it when we finally crashed, but I was tired enough to sleep through it.) We also saw a few ambulances and "Protection Civile" vehicles scream by with their sirens on. I think the hospitals must have been busy - one of those night shifts that no one wants to work.

We wish you all the best in 2008, wherever you may be.

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Check here for a short clip at the Christmas market in Place Cathédrale:

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