Thursday, December 20, 2007

Europe in pictures:126 - 166

Last batch of pictures.

To catch us up:

Landed in Paris on the afternoon of the 4th; reached Nantes/Carquefou in time for a late dinner.

Stayed in Nantes until the 6th, then took a train to Switzerland. Based myself in Interlaken, where I spent most of my time except for a quick dodge to Fribourg.

Left Interlaken the morning of the 8th, taking a EuroCity train from Interlaken to Colmar, France. The train ride was a bit weird at first: not many people got on until we had reached Basel (Bâle). We stopped in Basel for around 30 minutes or so; the train emptied itself out after stopping, then rumbled forward a few meters and stopped again. At first, I was confused and wondered whether I needed to get off the train. Then I saw an older gentleman farther down my car, so I went over and asked him if we were supposed to get off. "No," he said, "the train will be leaving in a few minutes." In other words, what I had been told in Interlaken was indeed the case. Living in Korea makes one paranoid about sudden changes, so this was a relief.

The train ended up arriving in Colmar about four minutes late. Dominique had been out looking for me, but he was on the other side of the station. We eventually found each other and headed off. Dominique's lovely wife Véronique was in the car; we chatted and caught up a bit. Our first stop was to pick up Dominique's son Augustin, who was finishing up a soccer game. We rode over to the field with two of Domi's kids, his daughter Héloïse (third in line to the throne) and his son Timothé.

Here are some photos of us en route to the soccer field:

Here's a quick vid of the very end of the soccer game; Auguste is #5.

One of the things we did as a family was to find a Christmas tree and have the kids decorate it. The process was pretty wacky, as the kids are all quite young (except Joséphine, who's ancient, being all of eleven years old), but it was fun to watch them go at it. I went out with Domi and Héloïse to get the tree; Hélo was the one who selected it, a power that had been promised her. She chose well, I think.

The tree needed some help staying upright; the stand Domi had was heavy, but not heavy enough: the tree kept tipping over at the slightest touch. The stand's hole was also too large for the tree's trunk to fit in, so Domi broke out a hammer and chisel while Auguste and I held the tree down, rotating it whenever Domi said to. Eventually, Domi chiseled the stump down to a manageable size, and it fit perfectly into the tree stand's hole. All the same, the tree needed some mooring to help it out, so Domi tied two lines that connected the tree to a knickknack shelf and a window sill, thereby stabilizing it.

Below, some shots of the decoration process.

Héloïse, Domi told me a few years back, was supposed to be my goddaughter, but the family decided against it because I don't visit Europe often enough. A shame, but I understand and accept their reasoning. I already have one goddaughter whom I see only rarely because I'm in Korea and she's in the States, and that causes some guilty pangs. On the bright side, I'm happy to have a goddaughter at all!

Anyway, Héloïse is an extroverted, expressive little tyke, and she most certainly is not camera-shy. Here are some pics of Hélo:

Domi's not a native of the Alsace region; he's from the Nantes area (i.e., the Celt-flavored Brittany/Bretagne), but he's become quite proud of the history and culture of the Alsace region. Around this time of year, two events of note occur: (1) la Fête de Saint Nicolas, a day for children, and (2) le Marché de Noël (Christmas Market), an open market that lasts from roughly late November to late December, and is held simultaneously in many cities in France. So we went a-strolling through the Market in Colmar with Héloïse in tow; toward the end, I'm not sure how much she was enjoying herself, as you'll see from her expression in the following photos:

Here's a video of part of the market. I pan across a lot of sausage, then catch up with Dominique and ask him to "Say something," then I say, "Oh, wait-- there's no audio." Obviously, that's not true. (I had thought I'd turned off the audio to save memory when recording.)

The following picture (we're still in the Christmas Market) shows a pun: "Les 100 Ciels" sounds like "L'essentiel."

Finally, a sight that excited Héloïse: Saint Nick himself! He gave out candies to the kids. Pretty cool, eh? NB: Saint Nick had a ton of demon-eye before I used Photoshop on him.

Below, you see the four kids together: Augustin is by himself; Joséphine, the eldest, is holding Timothé, and Héloïse is leaning against José. This was another shot that was, frustratingly, heavy on demon-eye. I did the best I could to rescue the kids from the malefic influence of the Dark One; you can be the judge of how well I did.

The Monday before my departure, it was BACK TO SCHOOL for the kids and BACK TO WORK for the parents, so I was dropped off in Strasbourg, where I wandered around and visited another Marché de Noël. While there, I stifled the urge to eat everything in sight and instead bought a single crepe-- crêpe au Nutella. It was as good as it sounds, and some of the photos below document the crepe's genesis.

The final four pics in this series show me at the airport. As I'd written before, I left on Tuesday morning (very, very early), arrived at Roissy with around 12 hours to spare, and wasn't allowed to check my bags until around three hours before my flight.

A quick vid of Strasbourg's easy-to-use Tram (their capitalization, not mine).

The Marché de Noël in Strasbourg...

God, that was good.

So I said my goodbyes to the kids (and to brave Véronique) on the evening of the 10th; I knew I'd be up and out of the house long before the kids were even to wake up for Tuesday classes. Domi and I then headed out into the dark countryside, driving back to Strasbourg in light traffic, and in plenty of time to catch my TGV.

The ride from Strasbourg to Roissy was uneventful; I smilingly recalled a conversation I'd had with Dominique when I'd met him on the 8th, regarding le compostage, i.e., the punching of train tickets in France. Switzerland doesn't engage in this practice, but in France, you have to get your ticket composté (machine-punched) before you can board the train. I had asked Domi why this was done in France; it seemed to me that, once you'd bought your ticket, you didn't need anything further done to it. Domi shrugged and agreed; he couldn't think of a reason for le compostage, either. Perhaps it's just a way to make you feel alive.

OK, maybe not.

VIDEO: My arrival at Roissy Station. In this vid, I've just gotten out of the train and am filming its departure. At the tail end of the vid, there's a shot of me blowing into the air; I was trying to show how cold the air was (I could see my breath), but I don't know whether the breath is visible on camera.

I waited a long, long time for my flight. I think I ended up eating lunch and dinner at the airport. Come to think of it, it's a wonder I didn't need to take a crap while on the plane. So, while waiting and out of sheer boredom, I took a shot of the geometric patterns in the sculpted concrete wall, patterns vaguely reminiscent of DC Metro station interiors.

And I took shots of my homemade bag tags...

Finally, not long before my fight, I took this shot of me in the terminal, waiting for the boarding call. I had the camera in my carry-on bag; I aimed it up at the glass ceiling and angled it toward my reflection in that ceiling. This took several tries, but I think the shot was worth it:

Not long after that shot was taken, I boarded the plane and made my way back to Korea.

I've been bedridden ever since.

And that, folks, is the story of my all-too-brief trip to Europe. Thanks for reading and watching.



Anonymous said...

Yeah baby Bledsoe

blueVicar said...

Looks like a fun trip to me. I love travel photos, each one tells its own story.

Glad you are now feeling better. Enjoy your Christmas feast!

Meilleurs voeux!!

P.S. I saw something about you returning to the USA for a year, then back to Korea? Definitely look into storage...dispersing things and rebuying them is a HUGE hassle; believe me as I've done it multiple times. It might be a "foreign notion" to folks there, but TRY! I'll have to keep reading to see what you'll be up to.