THE GRAND EST REGION – RICH PASCHALL

Today we are off on our latest adventure to Alsace. On this trip I will be joined by my frequent travel companion Lewis and a friend of his. We are going by way of Paris, as Lewis wishes to see this great city again. After our brief stop over we will be off to Strasbourg and a visit with my best friend there. We will try to bring back great travel news and pictures, but in the meantime here is a look at one of our past adventures.

A Visit to Strasbourg by Rich Paschall


Just across the Rhine River from Germany, in the northeast corner of France, lies the capital of the Grand Est (East) Region.  It is the largest metropolitan area in Alsace and home to the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union.  Because of its central location in Europe and proximity to Switzerland and Luxembourg, as well as “Allemand” (Germany), it is a major confluence of architecture, culture and cuisine.

Gare de Strasbourg

Whether you arrive by train from Paris, or other city or town around France, or come via the Lufthansa bus from Frankfurt, Germany, your first stop will be at Gare de Strasbourg (or Strasbourg railway station).  You can get a nonstop train from Paris, but you may find it easier to fly to Frankfurt and take the bus direct from Frankfurt airport.  Having made this trip many times, my preferred route is via Frankfurt.  While the French have made it easier in recent years with a direct train from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport, rather than having to go into the city to Gare de L’Est, you are likely to find the air fares from USA TO Frankfurt to be much cheaper than going to Paris.

Like most European cities, there is no need to rent a car.  Public transportation will get you around town and around the region.  Strasbourg is a great walking city and small enough to reach most of the sites on foot.  Tram and foot power will take you where you want to go.  Of course, a local friend with an automobile is a plus, but not necessary in the city proper.

Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre

From the train station there are many reasonably priced hotels within a short distance, even if you are toting luggage.  Straight ahead from the station is the Rue du Vingt-Deux Novembre. The picturesque street will take you past shops, restaurants, a large and very old church (of course), as well as hotels.  From this area you will enjoy many lovely trips around town.  If you do not have phone service outside the country, download a city map to your phone or tablet and use it as your guide.  If you are lucky, your hotel or other tourist stop will have a map that is actually printed on paper.  Strange, I know.

Place Kléber

Of course, it you forgot your iPhone or whatever electronic device you can not live without, you can always make your way to the large public square known as Place Kléber to visit the Apple Store.  I guess the techies will know by this stop that city is up to date and not just filled with ancient churches and quaint restaurants.  I will just sit by the fountain as you go in and gaze at all things Apple.

Wine Producers exhibition

The large convention center is home to many events.  We were lucky on one trip to make it to the wine producers convention.  Here the wine makers try to interest stores and restaurants in their latest wines.  Of course we could not stop at all of the many hundred booths to sample all of the products.  Fortunately, my friend was familiar with the wine producers of the region and was able to point me in the direction of the best ones.

If you appreciate a good stroll through town, you will find grand architecture and important historic sites.  There are cozy restaurants and side-walk cafes.  You can walk east and see the Rhine and another country across the way, or amble past the rivers and canals.  Going by the sites on a car or tram means you may miss the beauty of the ancient city.  If you can, take a walk with friends.

A tour with friends
Cathedral selfie

Almost any walk around Strasbourg will bring you to the spectacular Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. The height of its tower makes it visible from almost anywhere in the city.  It is 466 feet and it was the tallest building in the world from 1647 to 1874.  At present it is the 6th tallest church, and the tallest building surviving since the Middle Ages.  Other structures were on the site previously, but this cathedral was begun in 1015 and celebrated its thousand-year anniversary in 2015.  Much of the first structure burned to the ground in 1176 because of the wooden framework.  Construction began again on the current structure and was not finished until 1439.  This remarkable edifice was 424 years in the making.  It is the pride and joy of this region and a must stop for your travel itinerary of Alsace.

The complex west façade, or front of the building, is decorated with thousands of figures.  Do any of them represent actual people of that era?  The Gothic style of the front of the building is considered a masterpiece.  Some see the design as random, perhaps it is not.  The north tower rises to a great height, but the south tower was never built.  The result is a uniquely shaped building.

When I see these old structures, I truly wonder how they built them without modern construction equipment.  On the other hand, only craftsmen of that era could have built this.  Nothing like it is built in modern times.  During World War II the stained glass windows were removed and stored in a salt mine in Germany.  They were recovered and returned after the war by the American Military.  Seeing these windows today, you have to wonder how they got them in originally, as well as removing them to safeguard them.  The church suffered damage during air raids by British and American military.  It was not until the 1990s that the repairs were complete.

From Rue Mercière

I have seen the structure often and been inside a few times.  There can be lines of tourists outside, and they now employ a level of security that was not there the first time we visited.  If you encounter a line, be patient.  The trip inside is worth the wait.

Source: Strasbourg Cathedral, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg_Cathedral
Related: Destination: Friendship

HALLEY’S COMET AND THE END OF HIPPYHOOD – Marilyn Armstrong

I did take a lot of drugs … but I never considered them a “religious” or otherwise “exalted” experience. They were fun. Music was magical and just being outside and watching the stars was a glorious experience. In all those years, I never had a bad trip. But I was always careful about where I used stuff and who I was with. I never did understand people who took those drugs and then did things like go grocery shopping.

Why bother? Just go grocery shopping. The drugs were a kind of mini-vacation for weekends with the people you loved to be around.

When Tom met Timothy Leary while he was working, he got to tell him that he had used his travel service many times. I wish I’d been there to say thanks, too.

I stopped using them when my body stopped reacting well. It was, in fact, my 39th birthday and I was in Jerusalem.

Halley’s Comet was in the sky and a group of us went into the Judaean desert. We theorized we’d get a better view of it the sky from the desert. What we hadn’t known was that Bethlehem kept its streetlights on all night and they were exactly where we needed to look for the comet.  Jerusalem’s turned off its streetlights at around 11pm, so finally, we gave up and went back to our house which was right on the edge of the desert (it no longer is — that area is full of hotels and restaurants and fancy clothing stores. Where we all discovered we could see the comet just fine from the sidewalk in front of the house.

I wrote about it and it was the only article I wrote that got published in the Jerusalem Post. I wish I had a copy.

I wasn’t a hippy. I was too busy to be involved in full-time hippyhood and I was too fond of living in a comfortable house and being clean. I had a child (and in Jerusalem, three children) as well as a full-time job, a house to care for, a husband (two, at different times)(and Garry makes three just so you don’t get confused), and a lot of friends.

My home in Baka, Jerusalem

I think I had so many friends because I was one of the only people (couples) who owned big enough houses and had enough food to provide a “base camp” to one and all. In New York, everyone else lived in the dorms at school or a rental apartment and in Jerusalem, we had a really big space compared to most people.

This made me an official weekend hippy. Regardless, my brain had to be clear and functional before the start of work on Monday. I had clear limits.

All of us — the whole gang — grew up to be hard-working and well-respected people who believed in the value of work and understood that drugs were fun, but not a lifestyle. I was one of the people who watched hippies on TV and wondered how they dealt with all that MUD and grunge.

It was a strange and fascinating decade and a wonderful time to be young. I had already recovered from having my spine “repaired,” so I was happy to be alive. I definitely needed a baby. I always remind Owen that he was definitely no kind of accident. I wanted him and it wasn’t easy to produce him, either. When one gets so close to death, making new life seems the way to go.

Those were great years. By then, I was out of that gigantic plaster cast and braces and could (mostly) do what everyone else did. Arthritis came years later and for the next 20 years, I was fine. That was when I also took riding lessons. I had sent my son to riding camp and I realized he was learning to ride, but I was still waiting.

Mount Gilboa when the wild iris bloom
From the other side of the mountain

So, I learned to ride and then to climb. I climbed Mount Gilboa to see the wild iris in bloom and climbed down Land’s End because my stupid ex-husband dared me to do it. I swam naked in the Mediterranean and played bridge all night. I never seemed to need sleep back then.

Other than the battles with the ex, the rest of my life was what I wanted. When I got upset, I got into my tiny little car and drove around the old city. It was amazing at night with the lights on the stone walls. I never imagined I would leave it and I still dream about it. In my sleep, I can still speak Hebrew.

People spent an awful lot of time categorizing people into “groups.” If you took drugs, you were a hippy. Never mind if you also worked a 50 hour week, hauled groceries and tended your garden and when the time came to not take drugs, you simply stopped taking them and life went on.

The Banias by Mount Hermon

There were some really great memories back then. I remember tripping high up on the Banias in the Golan and realizing — for the first and final time — that the problems in the Middle East were never going to be solved. Someday, the Arabs would get their act together and push little tiny Israel into the sea, just like they said they would. It wasn’t a bad trip, but it was a realization and a revelation that sometimes, what you most wish for isn’t going to happen. No amount of hoping, wishing, planning, and negotiating will make it work.

That was probably as close as I ever got to a druggy religious experience. We had been talking about The Country and all its problems. How we knew, even if the rest of the world didn’t seem to catch on, that the reason Israel had not been overrun was (1) American foreign aid, (2) American fighter planes. Nixon, in the middle of Watergate, stopped to make sure the fighters were shipped to Israel and that is why the Yom Kippur war wasn’t a national catastrophe. And why Israelis thought of Nixon as a hero — a thing I found hard to reconcile. And (3) that the Arab community was just as much at odds with itself as with Israel and that’s why they never managed a sustained military campaign.

That has changed since terrorists seem to have replaced armies, but they are still fighting each other. If they weren’t doing that, they would have enormous power to change their world. And everyone else’s.

LINE AND SQUARES AND FALL – Marilyn Armstrong

FROM THE SALT LINE TO THE GOLDEN TREES

Small, cute, and hungry
A titmouse enjoys the bright colorful woods
The great maple in front of the house

A SOGGY AUTUMN THURSDAY – Garry Armstrong

Politics or weather and cars? That’s an easy one. Weather and car stuff!

Yesterday, it was me, a quick dental visit confirming that the previous week’s marathon procedure was a success. I still have some eating problems, but it is much better.

Today, it was the car dealer. A couple of weeks ago, we took the car in for a warranty repair and to replace a recalled part … and along the way, a piece that keeps the car’s hood attached to its body broke.

Welcome to Imperial Auto Mile!

It is the right-side hood latch; I’m sure it has a special name, but I don’t know it. I don’t think the Service Manager knew its name either. It’s a widget of unknown origin.

The Blues Brothers — full size, but totally plastic!
Just hanging out, waiting for their car to be finished

Our dealer is a fun place to hang out.  While the automotive Dr. Zorba figures out how to fix our 2015 Jeep Renegade, there’s a ton of stuff to look at. Sometimes, we go there just to take pictures. It’s that kind of place.

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a … car? An old one?

The dealership venue is wonderful to prowl. The owner is a collector of Hollywood and automotive artifacts, souvenirs and other stuff. Whether or not you’re a car person, it’s not boring. It’s also a brilliant idea to help customers cope with pricey repairs. You can hang with the Blues Brothers who occupy a front and center position at the entrance to the main showroom.

Welcome to our accounting office
Not for drinking!

The Boys grab your attention if you’re not cool with the cooking show on the giant TV screen. I actually watched the cookie program for a view minutes as the manly chef whipped together some kind of oat-filled casserole. It looked interesting but I’ll pass on anything related to oatmeal which is right in there with lima beans on my “Thank you, but NO” list.

There also are lots of nifty celebrity photographs. I’m not sure whether we’re supposed to believe these folks were car buffs but who cares? It’s the image that counts. If you’re blinded by the reflections, sorry. I tried my best.

Dean Martin and guitar – Photo: Garry Armstrong

You might want to chat with the Rat Pack replicas. Maybe they’re rehearsing for a gig, so if you want to splurge on a luxury car, Frank and Dino are pleasant companions –Las Vegas-style. Apparently, there are still people who have disposable incomes. I vaguely remember that term from my working days when I briefly considered buying my dream car. Until I realized we wouldn’t be able to eat or continue living in our yuppy-priced apartment. Decisions, decisions.

The Elvis Expo

There are lots of knick-knacks to remind you of the good old days for car owners. You can almost hear the ads of yesteryear: “See the USA in your …”  It was the wrong ad for this dealership, but you get my drift.

I didn’t own a car until I’d graduated from high school. I felt so deprived when I saw my classmates with their cool wheels. Memories rush through my head as I gaze over the showroom. These cars don’t have the distinctive character of the rides of our youth. That was when you could tell a Chevy from a Caddy from a Buick and you didn’t even have to be “into” cars. The price of progress, as Spencer Tracey warned in an old film.

The weather probably impacted the business. It was quite a storm that started last night and continued through most of today. Not many people outside, looking over all the cars waiting for a home and owners who’ll treat them with care. It was gray and windy with rain hovering on the horizon.

Outside, the weather threatens

There was powerful wind out there today. Like some Washington bigwig had passed gas again, spinning tales like a used car salesman. Or a Lawyer who promised to turn his life around after chasing his last ambulance.

Our car received a temporary prescription. Check with Dr. “Trust Me ” Zorba in two days.

The ride home was an adventure. Lots of Steve McQueen types on their own road to perdition. That two-lane road doesn’t allow for Le Mans-style driving but try telling that to those jokers.

Route 16

The trek gave me time to observe the rapidly changing autumn foliage, too. The sun drifted in and out of the cloudy sky and the wind-tossed leaves blew hither and yon. Every turn in the road offered a new technicolor scene. This is when I really appreciated living in our valley of rivers, creeks, dams, and woods. People still come to the valley from all over just to see the leaves.

The road home

I had the Sinatra station going on our car radio. My kind of music. It played well on my drive as I realized late afternoon had crept up on me. A late autumn afternoon when the sky darkens quickly, imbuing it with color changes, adding shadows to the trees swinging in tune to the increasing wind gusts. I sensed a need to get home quickly before the skies opened.

Trees in the front
Through the wood glider with sun peaking through

Sinatra was singing “When The World Was Young” followed smoothly by Ella Fitzgerald’s “When Sunny Gets Blue,” Tony Bennett’s “Once Upon A Time,” Sammy Davis’ “Mr. Bojangles.” As I pulled onto the road to our house,  Sinatra was back again with his vintage “Autumn Leaves.” It was perfect timing. Thanks for the company “SiriuslySinatra.”

Beware of Scottish Terriers

A quick survey of our home showed Mother’s Nature’s darkening mood as the late afternoon stretched lazily down our driveway and across our front and back yards. No picnics today as the clocks rolled toward dinner time for the dogs who waited, with precious little patience, for their dinner.

Maybe I could get Sinatra to sing for them. How about “Young At Heart,”  my furries?