Thursday, 27 April 2017

Germany to France - and back again

When you live just a few kilometres from the border, it only makes sense that you would jump over into France on a regular basis. Today we made the short drive into la belle France to explore a few of the local villages in the Alsace region. And eat lunch.

Our first stop was into the village of Haguenau. We parked on the edge of town and walked into the centre, with icy winds sweeping around us that made our cheeks glow and noses go numb. A sudden cold snap bought the temperature down and it was still only a very brisk 11 degrees at 11am.

After a warming coffee and croissant, we took a wander around the town, admiring the grey stone buildings and flashes of colour from flowering gardens. The town is a real mixture of French and German influences, with the traditional blue French street signs on ever corner, but many German influenced building styles.

The Alsace region has alternatively switched between Germany and France over the years and they historically spoke Alsatian, a Germanic dialect. Today they mostly speak French, but most people can switch into German easily enough which was helpful for my aunt and uncle - but not a lot of good to me. Luckily, the 10 words and five phrases I know in French kicked in and I was able to manage a few orders and payments in cafes.

I was feeling a little bit smug about remembering things I haven't spoken in nearly two years until we got talking to an old man in the street when our dogs were sniffing one another. He started chattered away in French until I had to admit that I didn't have the first clue about what he was saying. Then he thought for a minute and started speaking in slightly halting English. We talked for a bit and he said that in his youth he had learned a little English but hadn't spoken it in decades. I was so beyond admiring for this gent to be able to pull out enough of a language not used in so long to be able to have a chat to an Australian girl!

We feasted on a delicious lunch in a gorgeous little side street restaurant and then took a little walk around the town as we made our way back to the car. There were some lovely shops around and I was half tempted to go in and look at some sandles when I realised that the shop - in fact almost all the shops - were closed for lunch. The village is so traditional that they close between 12-2 every day for lunch. You'd never see that in Australia these days and I sort of had to admire them for keeping the work life balance going (although I really did want those sandles).

Our next stop was into the little village of Soufflenheim, which is about 20 mins away. The village specialises in pottery and we stopped into the Poterie Philippe Lehmann, who was an artist my aunt had read about and wanted to see. Their work was really beautiful and we looked at the red and blue blowls and plates and platters stocked around the showroom. It was all beautiful but there was no room in my suitcase for such heavy items so I only bought a little heart shaped hanging ornament.

Finally we wandered down the main street through the town to stretch our legs and enjoy the sunshine. It had warmed up to 19 degrees and the wind wasn't as cold so it was really nice. I dawdled at every strip of flowering tulips, hyacinths and pansys and admired the beautiful colours.

Then it was only a short drive down the autobahn and over the Rhine river and we were back in Germany and home again.



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