Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Bonne Annee, Bonne Sante! "Bonne sante," or "good health," unfortunately did not accompany me into the new year. I had a wonderful New Year's Eve at a friend's home -- a delicious dinner of "gigot d'agneau" (leg of lamb) which I'll have to try to cook sometime myself, and great company, but awoke the next morning with not a hangover, but some sort of a flu. Weak, tired, and feverish (though I refused to admit it), I finally crawled out of bed at 5 pm on New Year's Day. Yesterday, a little bit better, today, still tired but definitely more energy, and I imagine tomorrow I should be close to back to normal if I can get a good night's sleep.

Between Christmas and New Year's, we took a quick trip to Strasbourg, a delightful Alsatian town which is famous for its cathedral and Christmas market. It was very cold and Maylin was tired and in a foul mood, so I was only able to see the cathedral and watch its fantastic astronomical clock in action at 12:30 pm (long lines already at 11:45 am, when the ticket booth just opens, but the wait and the one euro per person fee is worth it just to see the robotic rooster flap its wings, tilt its head back, and "cockle-doodle-doo" ("coco-rico" in French) quite realistically three separate times). I kind of tricked Maylin into walking through the Christmas market just outside the cathedral, making her think we were on the way to the car (she wanted to go back to the hotel immediately after lunch). Nice market, but perhaps overrated. I've seen both Christmas markets in Munich and Prague, and really, they're all pretty much the same, in my opinion. If you've never been to one before, go for it. You'll get your fill of cute Christmas ornaments, scented candles, handmade jewelry, inexpensive stuffed animals made in China, cool, animated tin toys, handcarved toys, spiced breads and cookies, etc., etc. But if you've seen one, I believe you've seen them all. Of course, if you can never get enough "gluwein" (hot, spiced wine), maybe you should hang out there for awhile and keep warm.

We went to Heidelberg, Germany, the next day, because Germany in the winter really feels like Christmas to me. I was in Munich during the winter of 2000, and fell in love with the combination of cold, snow, Christmas lights, decorations, hot, crisp, potato pancakes served with applesauce, and the best sausage sandwiches ever (this tasty food available on the street for hardly any money). I was delighted with Heidelberg's amazing castle ruins at the top of the hill and the amazing sights from the castle and from below looking up. But this trip to Germany was surprisingly American to me because once we crossed the border into Germany, we saw a Wal-Mart (first one I've seen in Europe), in Heidelberg, I saw a Woolworth's (I made regular visits to this store with my mom in Minnesota!), and everyone working the ticket booths or in the restaurants was speaking English! Every other tourist at the castle and near the cathedral (adjacent shopping lanes) was American! (Oops, I've exhausted my exclamation point quota already.) I should have felt like I fit in just fine with them, right? Nope, they felt like foreigners to me. Have I been in France too long?

I really should rest since I'm fighting the tail-end of this flu, or whatever it is, so I'll sign off now. But I'm excited to report to you next about Maylin and what she thought of her Christmas presents from Santa!

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