Last pictures from France

I have been home for almost a week… boy it is nice to be home.   I do miss France already and I want to share some “final” family vacation pictures.   I have already posted “typical” tourist pictures… and have saved “my kind of pictures” for this last post.  I hope you enjoy these unconventional vacation pictures.

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We took the TGV last Sunday to Paris the night before our flight home.   Isabelle’s sister and nephew took us to the train station and you can see them in this “selfie”… (is it still a selfie if there is a group?)

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I love the TGV and they have an interesting  advertisement campaign this year.   Here is an example of one of those advertisements.  Ben and I decided we could create one as well using a phone and Gwen.  (Ben’s sister… while she was sleeping)

 

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Sorry GWEN

 

 

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We love you…. Gwen… couldn’t resist… and had to post it twice…  (never gets old)

 

I have more advertisements…. I saw one for an Opera the first day I arrived in Strasbourg.  I am not much of an Opera guy… but if this publicity is anything close to the actual opera I really want to see it.

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I wonder if severed head “kissing” causes this opera to receive a Mature Audience rating

This was not the only “gore” based advertisement.  I saw another and at first I thought it had been “vandalized”… As I looked closer I realized that it had not been… it was designed this way.  (oh those edgy French)

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Kind of gross huh…

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Speaking of gross…  This is the toilet paper at my mother in laws house.   The “Soft & Saugstark” made me wonder… what is “saugstark”?   I decided to “google translate” this…

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I had assumed that “saugstark”  was German… but google tells me that it is Norwegian for “Juicy”.   I was using “SOFT and JUICY” toilet paper…  hmm   Gross.

Boy… I know this is random… and it is only going to get worse…

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This sign makes me laugh… “French but wild”…  Made me think of a new coffee table book title… “Where the wild things are… France”
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I drove by this tree in a small village… I thought it was paint at first… but it is actually wrapped in some kind of fabric
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Sam took this one for me…   Maybe just a bit too much detail?… I think I  we all get the idea…   the yellow part is not needed.
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In walking I noticed these ridged tiles every where… finally figured out they were for the blind… they show… (by texture) where to cross the street  and the nearest one shows where to catch the bus
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Do you every wonder where “delinquent” light poles hang out?
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SDF means “Homeless”… and this was on the front of a store.  Not sure I understand exactly what this all means… lots of “X”s… but the two that aren’t…  what do they mean… You can hug and charge batteries in their store?
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Bartholdi’s home town… Colmar.   Strange to see a model of the statue of liberty in the middle of the road.
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hmmm…. is this bad? or am I a bad person because I think it looks cool?
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Sometimes I wished I didn’t speak/read French… I would have assumed that this was a sign that didn’t allow mimes… or invisible walls constructed by mimes
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Ya… I can handle anger… but “rage’ scares me…
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This was in the front door of a store… I am not sure what it is suppose to do or be….there is something oddly suspicious about this fake dog
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Here is a frozen yogurt store… pretty cute… except the odd milk wavy thing in the middle…
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Here is a product called “eat me”…   do you think it is food?  Sure would be a horrible name if it was hand soap or worse rat poison!
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Everyone to the ice skating rink!   Babies included… Boy are they “customer greedy”… anything for a dollar… (don’t worry baby heads are soft… nothing bad can happen)
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This is a “PSYCHOGENEALOGISTE” office… I had never heard of this before.   I asked Isabelle if you went there and a “PSYCHIC” told you about your ancestors.   She says this was a “PSYCHAITRIST” who tells you which ancestor you can blame for all of your mental illnesses… (not sure which is worse)

This is all for France… Hope there was at least one picture that made you smile!

Family Vacation in France

I didn’t write in this blog or do anything weird this weekend.   This weekend we all got on a plane and flew to France. (Our annual family vacation to France.)   Even though the kids have flown often, I still worry about keeping them entertained.   In an attempt to have Ben do something other than iPad or video watching I asked him to draw a picture of me.   He took this very seriously.  He began by holding up a pencil while closing an eye.  He earnestly studied my very handsome masculine face… and then he began to commit  what he was seeing to paper. That is at least what I thought he was doing.  (Drawing me… what could go wrong?)

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I saw this…umm…  I was ready to tell him just to go back to video watching.   (One eyeball is not even on my head… and what is with the rat teeth).   I then quickly thought that I can’t have Isabelle see this… she will probably hang it somewhere prominent.  Mom’s can be a bit “blind” to these kind of things… not realizing that this would only show how untalented our son is… or worse how weird he thinks his father appears. I was thinking about “accidently” spilling my coke on it… and then realized there was a much better way…   I asked him to draw mom!

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It turned out better than I could have imagined.   I was hoping to play her vanity against her motherly pride… but now I had a picture that put in to question her loving and patient parenting skills.  (I may look “goofy” in mine.. but at least I don’t look “mean”)  Most people that know her would laugh… but it is still perfect since I could always follow up with… you never know what happens behind closed doors.   This picture was so good that instead of keeping it as a counter argument for not showing mine…  I have decided to post them both here knowing mine will be forgotten once you see hers.

Ok… back to our travels….

The plane flight went very well and in Paris we honestly “flew” through passport control and customs . (I am not sure I can say “honestly flew”… since we were “actually” walking really fast) I seem to always stress when it comes to connections especially where there is a short time.  We had what I thought would be not enough time between landing in Paris and  leaving on our train for Strasbourg…. but I was completely wrong.    This time even with the “I have to go to the bathroom” delays…  made it with perfect timing.   We didn’t miss our connection, have to run or pee our pants… and we didn’t have to sit for 6 hours waiting for the next train

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If you ever fly into Charles de Gaule airport and need to take a train it is very convenient since the train station is located at the airport.   I am sure that many Americans do not think about taking a train but I enjoy them… especially the TGV and sitting in first class.   In the picture above you see the children on the train playing Uno and they look surprisingly awake.

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When I travel I always look at google timeline and see where I have been and how much time and distance I travelled between places.  It can be eerily accurate as you can see by our 417 km train ride that took 2 hours and 2 minutes (Paris to Strasbourg on the TGV).  It can also be completely off… like our 6.6 km airplane ride that took 3 hours and 29 minutes. (worlds slowest airplane). hmmm…   In reading this back… I realize that this might have been the most boring paragraph I have ever written for this blog.

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Speaking of boring, my children soon became bored with Uno.  I am a caring father so I searched the train for entertainment.  In between cars  I found a sign showing some new game for children.  The game had no written instructions only a picture and I knew exactly what this meant…  this game is appropriate for all ages. (even those who are not old enough to read)   This would be perfect for all of my children and I named it the “Yellow Hand” game. (based upon the picture)  I went and got them but not one of them wanted play.  They all demonstrated a complete lack of adventure.   I tried to coerce them by explaining that there was very little effort needed on their part… all they had to do was hold their hand in the door as it closed.   So disappointing…   and I am left wondering would a hand really turn yellow? Oh… ya…   I have one other quick question for those of you who are more “grammatically” gifted… is it correct to have punctuation (“!”) if you don’t have words? (hmmm… and should I have assumed a certain age based upon the presence of punctuation?)

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We arrived at “mami’s” house (Isabelle’s mother) and the weather was beautifully warm and sunny.  I love springtime especially when it isn’t raining and I am not home doing yard work.  When we arrived, even the children noted how beautiful everything was especially the magnolia tree next to the house.   One of them… (can’t remember which one… they were very noisy) asked if we could bring some seeds back home from the tree.  I said  we already had “lots”…  but in Utah they look different… and are called sage brush.   (only a “white lie”.   I am not sure they would grow in Utah… plus you should see the ground… what a mess)

I have not yet used my “good” camera.  These photos were taken with my phone and the magnolia picture… well google decided to apply some “effects”…  not sure why google randomly does this.  I personally think it is messing with me.

I forgot to mention the fact that Isabelle did not come with us from the train station to her mother’s.  She unfortunately had to attend the funeral of a dear friend’s father.  She left directly from the train station while her sister drove the kids and I to her mother’s home.   Yes… I selflessly stayed with the children (actually I got stuck with them…).  

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We quickly ran to Super U (weird name for a grocery store… huh…) so I could make them something for dinner.   We bought my children’s idea of “French dietary staples”:

  • coquillette (elbow macaroni)
  • des lardon (American bacon cut up into little pieces)
  • pommes noisettes (little mashed potato balls that are crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle)
  • ketchup
  • une baguette (you know… the bread you always see in movies about France)
  • Orangina  (orange soda… with real orange pulp… at least I think it is real… if it isn’t… I wonder what it is made of… )

As you see in the picture above  I also patiently (or lazily) taught them to make their own dinner.  (So I lied when I wrote “so I could make them dinner”… but again it is just a little white lie since they need to learn how to be self-sufficient)France 09

I also wanted to add my idea of “french dietary staples”.   Here are the items I bought for myself.

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I consider these items “gateway” food to real french cuisine (with the exception of the mauricette).   Let me explain the mauricette.   This is a delicious pretzel like roll found in Alsace and you can not go wrong when serving these to Americans…  actually you can go wrong if you argue with your wife that they are “P”retzels not “B”retzels.

l’Ortolan:   (french cheese gateway for Americans)

This is a baby step towards real french cheese.   It is a delicious… almost butter flavored cheese that feels and looks like camembert.   It is so mild, delicious, and really easy to like.  I have met very few Americans who don’t love it.  If you are unfamiliar with and nervous about trying french cheese (especially the stinky, or runny ones) this is definitely a good starting place.  One “pro” tip… (I have seen this done… so don’t laugh) don’t cut off the white mold… you eat it.   Once you have had this… you can try anything… maybe Roquefort… and when you spit it out in disgust… you can remember that you have eaten at least one french cheese that you liked.  (I love roquefort as well… but you may not)

Rillettes:  (pâté and fois gras gateway for Americans)

I know that there are some french readers out there who will be rolling their eyes with this one… but from the view point of an American trust me.  French like to eat meat that looks like it belongs in a can of cat food. WORSE… It is often made of liver and sometimes liver from mistreated geese or ducks.   Rillettes is the best introduction to this cat food eating culture.   First of all the texture feels more like meat should feel.   Second it is shredded pork and has a nice pork almost bacon-y taste.   Once you have become accustom to eating cat food (think of the money you could save)… you will be ready to try pate and even fois gras.   Here is another pro tip… don’t put ketchup on the fois gras it really bothers the french… trust me.

Oh… I had best tell you that I don’t mix the cheese and the meat… I made two mauricettes… one with l’ortolan and the other with the rillettes.. (don’t want you to think I am “weird”)

Stay tuned… I will be sharing my vacation over the next several weeks… maybe there will be some more “Pro” tips.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend in Schiltigheim

This is my first “weekend” in France on vacation.   I decided to post some picture from my walk to church today.   Usually I write this for myself… very selfishly only thinking about what I want to “remember”.   This time I am writing for all of you!!!

I want you to see a city in  France… But not have any jealousy or sadness because you are not here with me…  I have chosen a town that… well you wont find in any tourist books… or scenic magazines.     I would not consider this town to be a “hidden gem” either…  in fact I would never come here if it were not on the way to church.

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SCHILTIGHEIM – Ville Fleurie ( with 3 flowers...)- Ville amie des enfant (Friend to Children City)

Wow… if I could add a sign under all of these signs it would read “Ville  – Good but not too Good“.   Let me explain (or justify my sign with this post)…   but.. before I begin I want to address the “friend to children”…  this is obviously true…  Just the name “Schiltigheim” brings out the 13 year old boy in me.   Schiltigheim is located in Alsace… (Pronounced Al’s Ass.. I have mentioned this before with my choucroute recipe)… it never gets old saying my wife is from Al’s A** or that you can take a Rheinfahrt that stops in Alsace… (took this at the park on the Rhine… also spoke with some American passengers… they loved this river cruise… Amsterdam to Basel)

rheinfahrt.jpgYes… Schiltigheim… is the “Friend to Children” and every young child knows that if there is an Alsace… there will obviously be a Schiltigheim.   Man… I really got off topic.   Back to the “Ville- Good but not too Good” and back to the signs… you noted the sign that stated “Ville Fleurie” (annual contest in France).   They got the second highest one could get… and I really like the “wild- flower” natural meadow look…

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GOOD— right (although this kind of “flower bed” is not everyone’s thing… don’t worry…we will come back to the light posts… which I love)

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and… “Not too GOOD”… (do these even count as flowers?).  

Let’s talk about the red-bent lamp posts.  I find them to be so interesting and clever.   Almost like people with hats walking down the street.

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Very GOOD… artistic…  chic!

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Hmmm…  Almost GOOD…   kind of reminds me of the partridge family bus…  (where are the flowers?)

Let me continue… One enters Schiltigheim via the industrial section… the first picture (feature picture) is taken from there… and here is another…

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I think all of you will agree GOOD!!!! NOT sure that it is normal for the industrial zone to look better than the city… (Maybe I am wrong about this… you judge)

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just… well… drive by no need to notice…  “not too Good”… in Alsace they are not afraid of color…  even with all of the blues, pinks, oranges, and purples… something seems… well ordinary.

The street markers in here are made from the same stone’s that make up the beautiful Cathedral in Strasbourg.

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Almost “monumental” in nature…  speaking of monuments… every city needs one and here is Schiltigheim’s monument.

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hmm… kind of disappointing… maybe its just me… (the bonhomme is not even wearing a shirt)

Last picture combines GOOD and not too Good all in one.  Here is some back story. My father in law shared with me the story of him returning to Alsace towards the end of world war II(he was a refuge during the war)… He said the moment he saw the “flèche ” of the Cathedral he got down and kissed the ground.   He had tears in his eyes as he was telling me this.  Anyone that lives near Strasbourg can not help but admire this wonderful landmark and feel “Alsatian pride” when seeing the cathedral.

YES… you have a view of the cathedral from Schiltigheim…

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Good but not too Good… not sure you would want to kiss the ground here….(you can also see IKEA… and yes they are having “Soldes”)

 

(thought I should add my destination…   the church… a very small congregation but almost like an extended family… see them only once a year…   and they greet me with all the warmth and kindness one could ask for)

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OH No… Les soldes d’été (forgot about it)

Before I get to the “SOLDES”… I want to say that the day started off… well beautifully.   We went for a nice walk around Oberhausbergen… Isabelle’s home town. (funny name for a french city… but they are all strange names in Alsace)

Here are some pictures from the morning walk… You will note that almost all of my vacations pictures end up at somewhere with food especially pastries… you can also see… Sam enjoying an éclair breakfast.  (yes I am still a horrible father when it comes to making breakfast)

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After the walk Isabelle asked me to help buy her mother a dress for our nieces wedding next week.  I agreed even though I hate shopping… and I did this because it was for Yvonne (wife’s mother).   Everyone jokes about their Mother in-law… but I seriously can’t find anything negative to say about mine… (maybe I just found something to complain about… she is too perfect… ).   Honestly  Yvonne is truly an angel and I love her dearly…   Both she and her late husband are people that I admire and really want to emulate.  As an example of their kindness both of Isabelle’s parents worked for Albert Schweitzer (who was born in a nearby village — Kaysersberg)  doing charity work.   Here is a picture of Yvonne with Albert Schweitzer.  (hopefully I don’t need to explain who he is…)

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I can really get off topic…. sorry…back to shopping…  We left for Strasbourg and to my dismay… realized way to late to back out… with a believable excuse… that France was having their summer sale…   France has some interesting commerce laws and “Sales” happen only twice a year… Winter Sale and Summer Sale.  The only fond memory of these sales was the first time I saw them… and kept wondering why everything was marked as already “SOLDES”… (at the time didn’t know that it was the word for “sale” in French).   My wife had a similar experience in the US… except she was wondering why everything had gotten “SALE” (means “dirty” in french… and she didn’t know what it meant in English)….

Unfortunately this is where any good feelings about “les soldes d’été” end…  I mentioned earlier about going to hell and Satan giving me a crochet hook as punishment… well this would be his next torment… (go shopping with your wife… and there is a big sale)   My wife can spend literally hours (like today… ) looking for a bra…  I especially hate lingerie stores… never no where to look….  I finally couldn’t take it any longer so I left her and the madness… and I wandered around Strasbourg taking these pictures…

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and I of course ended this walk with something to eat… ICECREAM…

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Decided to try a new flavor   GERANIUM…   and it tasted like… well  like the flower smells… kind of horrible…

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Tomorrow another WPD (Weird Picture of the Day)…

Departure and Arrival – Strasbourg

We made it… FINALLY… over 30 hours of travelling… (had some late planes and missed transfers)…  I will not bore you with all of details but the kids were awesomely patient,  well behaved (well for my kids) and towards the end… completely exhausted.  While waiting for the first plane I snuck away for a small walk… when I returned it was announced to me by the two older children that “Ben” (6 year old) had made friends with the pilots of our plane.   Ben interrupted stating “actually… I think they are going to let me fly the plane!”   Wow… all my lies to them have finally backfired…  and I not believing a word of this story said…  “you can’t even drive a car… how are you going to drive an airplane?”.   Ben simple stated “I think they can show me…”.

The entire flight Ben kept asking me when the pilots were going to come get him…  (at this time I didn’t believe he had actually even met them and was worried that he was pushing this “story” a little far…).   At the end of the flight as we were de-planing” (and me…still not believing Ben) we passed the cockpit the pilots said “Ben come in and help us”….  hmm… so he was telling the truth… (mostly) and I was surprised and delighted with the kindness that these men showed my children… and of course the kids were thrilled.   Probably the highlight of the “LONG” voyage…

Ben asked how he could become a pilot (I was having a proud dad moment until…)…   They answered Military or School… He got all excited and said in the Military will I kill people… (oh… boy…  I could not even think of an excuse for what he said… wonder if it is related to all the video games he plays… or maybe I  should be really worried).   At the next airport…Ben made friends with a TSA officer and got an Junior TSA Honorary Badge from them… (he didn’t say anything embarrassing but I still think that I need to teach him Stranger Danger…)

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SO… we are in Strasbourg… I will be posting as I have in the past (although not in a blog… ) a Weird Picture of the day…   I did this for my older daughter when she was young and couldn’t travel with us… (not with us again… someday I hope she and her husband will fly out with us.)

WEIRD PICTURE OF THE DAY… (the longest 32 hour DAY of my life…)

In keeping with the Ben theme…   I am posting this one… It may not be weird to you… but it made me scratch my head since this was in front of a “Fudge” store.

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Not sure what a bear in snorkeling gear had to do with selling fudge… and not sure what Ben’s pose is… (I asked him to do a swimming pose)….

Please… stay near your computers… I will try to post something daily during this vacation.  Hopefully better  “weird” pictures along with some nice “vacation” pictures and of course vacation stories… (hopefully they will not bore you… if they do… just stop reading and hit like… see you tomorrow)