The Story of Strasbourg~Cathedrals

Some years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to go to Strasbourg, France for the summer with a small group from my university to study French for the summer. I took the good with the bad, and ended up with an experience that I look back on quite fondly. Rather than give you accounts of my more personal stories (cause after all, you don’t care), I will simply share some amazing (or at least I think so) photos, and some observations.

To being, pretty much all the cathedrals/churches in Europe are amazingly beautiful, and they are probably all older than America. This pretty much enchants me because I have a fascination for all things ancient.

The cathedral is in the center of town (or old town as they call it) and surrounded by a plaza that after 6pm was a pedestrian only zone. It is right of the street from my favorite Belgian pub where I had some amazing beers, so I walked past it quite often. This, of course, led to many photo opportunities.

This is not photo shopped by the way. I was lucky enough to be there during a special celebration during which the cathedral was lit up, and there was a light-show.

A couple of these churches are from villages around Strasbourg. I have many more pictures and stories to come, so stay tuned!

**I don’t mind if you use my photos, but please don’t claim them as your own.

Snaps for a Vagabond

*the girl with the blog suggested I make a list of accomplishments (no matter how stupid or mundane) from the past year, and I am wholeheartedly embracing that suggestion! Read her post (and her reply that inspired this post) here.

**This post is not really about travel, or AmeriCorps, but I need to put this out there for myself. I encourage all of you, despite your age or situation, to do the same. As you read the post, click on the blue words. Read it all through once, then go back and click on the links as they appear. I wanted to enhance your reading experience, and it took a while to do, so CLICK! 😉

In about 4 more months I will be turning 28. For the past couple of years, I have been at constant battle with myself, and with what I thought society expected me to have completed by a certain age. This blog is an attempt at sharing the things, no matter how stupid, that made me proud of myself, and that I have accomplished since turning 27. I may not be where I thought I would be by 28, but I’ve still done some pretty noteworthy things. The following list is in chronological order.

  1. Dyed my hair a startling shade of red (read: orange) that ended up working out pretty well. (This is interesting, and this is funny!)
  2. Graduated with a BA in French and a BA in Spanish. 
  3. Gave private lessons, and became a private tutor for both languages. (Learn Spanish here)
  4. Applied, and was accepted for a position with a non-profit as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
  5. Made a pass at someone that I would have never had the courage to openly do before.
  6. Bought a new (used) car, and completed the haggling and transaction by myself (if you don’t count the inspection by my trusty mechanic). 
  7. Faced walking away from someone that will most likely never want me the way I want them…or wanted them…it’s complicated. (I feel like this this, but I hope to feel like this.)
  8. (With the help of a friend) Moved from St. Louis to Reno (over 1800 miles) for the position as a VISTA. It was kinda like this.
  9. Went to a 1930’s themed fundraiser in full costume…including a wig! Soundtrack here.
  10. Started writing a blog.
  11. Started riding my bike on a regular basis.
  12. Climbed a tree. (What I probably looked like.)
  13. Climbed a mountain (a little one, but a mountain none the less). soundtrack
  14. Dyed my hair closer to my natural color, and was very happy with the result!
  15. Began the application process for the Peace Corps (though today I discovered that a non-fatal/serious medical condition might keep me from joining). What I almost did.

I still have a few months till I turn 28! What else can I do?! Whatever happens, this has already been quite a year. And even though sometimes I feel as though I haven’t done enough in my almost 28 years on this planet, I think many people would agree that that isn’t true. Thanks the girl with the blog for encouraging me to make this list! 🙂

The American Mentality

** The pic was taken from another blog, but the words are all mine baby!

 

It seems to me that people are always on the search for more. More this, more that, but most of all, more money (I know all the English teachers are cringing at my use of grammar…or lack thereof). Americans are always on the go, just amassing money, clothes, jewelry, shoes, and vacation days that they never use. So how exactly do all of those material items enrich their lives? Well, if the person is an actual materialist and all of those things really fill their lives with utter and complete joy, then the simple possession of said items does enrich that person’s life. Honestly though, how often is that really the case. Many times people simply buy things because other people do, and they think that possession is the key to having a full life. But, since I write this blog, the only opinion that matters in the Vagabond’s (I’m just playing it up, I’m really not that self-involved). Life experiences and enriching encounters are the key factors, and not material possessions. Now I know a lot of people out there are assuming I mean world travel, and are thinking, “Well, ya gots to have money to travel! Duh!”. While travel (whether it’s within your own city, state, or country) is important, it isn’t necessary to have different experiences and meet different people. Even though my encounters with people outside of my own social set, or ethnicity have sometimes been awkward, difficult, …sometimes scary, I walk away with a different world view (I know it’s sounds really deep and pretentious, but it’s true). Where was I going with this? Oh yeah, money. My ESL students have far less than I do, and while I know they aren’t walking around with grins on their faces all the time, they are truly happy (at least I hope). So wake up people! Take a stinkin’ vacation! If you go to another country, then take the time to experience it and don’t just hang out in the hotel filled with people just like you! Don’t worry about buying things to show that you went to a different place, because the stories, experiences, and hopefully friends that you will make will last you far longer than a snowglobe.

 

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A Belgian in France

I was lucky enough (it wasn’t luck, it took a ton of money) to get to study for about a month in Strasbourg, France. On the whole, it was a great experience and I have some wonderful stories from that time (I have some not so good stories too), but for now I want to talk about beer. Yes, it was in Strasbourg where I truly came to love beer. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “You were in France, and all you can talk about is beer?! Didn’t you drink some wine? Isn’t France known for its wine? What’s wrong with you?”. Okay, well maybe you aren’t thinking that, maybe you like beer as much as I do and don’t feel the need to question. But most people were wondering why I wasn’t blown away by the wines, after all miss, z’iz is France! Keep your pantyhose one wine-lovers We did take a wine tour and I tasted many delicious wines, but the beer is what captured my heart. For your edification (that’s a fancy word, isn’t it), Strasbourg is in the Alsace region of France and for many years was actually part of Germany. It was lost in a war (there was tons of skirmishes between Germany and France) but was officially part of France again at the end of WWI as decreed by the treaty of Versailles. Due to this, and the close proximity of Germany (about 25 miles from the city center) the culture in Strasbourg is a melange (that means mix) of German and French which means that the cuisine is heavy and rich and beer is prominent! This was certainly a blessing for me, ahhhhh yes indeed. The first beer that I was properly introduced to was at the joint where I ate the most heavenly tarte flambee. For those of you that don’t know, tarte flambee is a french spin on pizza…made by the gods! It was the most delicious dish I ate in Strasbourg, and I can’t wait till winter to make it for myself (Why winter you ask? Well, I’ll have more post about France soon). So, back to the beer. It accompanied the meal in a most complimentary way; the meal was heavy and the beer was light and refreshing! It was a light and citrusy beer with actual orange pulp in it! Extremely refreshing without tasting like nasty canned stuff! It was one of the best beers I tried! Beer was and is still such a big part of the culture that we even took a tour of a brewery, including the bowls of the building which was kinda like a beer museum! But is wasn’t at the eatery or the brewery that I really came to explore the different types of beer available to my Vagabond palate. No, the blessed spot of my alcoholic education was the Belgian pub just a short walk from the cathedral and next to the canal, and the name was Berthom (ahhhhhhhhhhhhh, insert catholic monk music). The bestest Belgian beer in the whole wide world, and some day I will be going there..the holy land of my favorite beers! At this lovely little pub, we met some wonderfully friendly (and sometimes handsy) people who made the trip so much better! First of all, the pub itself was quite interesting! The tables were all nested around artificial trees with the tables looking like a slab of the tree itself. The booths were very intimate, and the windows at the front of the pub could be completely opened, which (if you’re really friendly) allowed one to take part in the conversation going on at the tables outside. I spent many evenings there trying all the different beers on the menu and hanging with the locals. My friend (above) was a big fan of the light but classic Duvel while I preferred the darker and more robust beers. My first night at Berthom was quite balmy and after the warm walk over I was in great need of something cool and absolutely refreshing. Therefore, my first order was a Kriek Cerise, which is a cherry lambic beer. That was down my gullet in a matter of minutes and I moved on to a more serious order of Maredsous Brune, a dark dubbel with a higher alcohol content (8% ABV). I called it “the gateway beer” because from there I moved on to Maredsous Triple (10%ABV) and  to my all-time favorite beer Mc Chouffe which is a dark beer with a perfect balance of spice and bitter, heavy and smooth. In between these I did try others, but soon discovered that the darker beers were most certainly my preference. I also tried out a Kasteel Rouge, which is a dark ale flavored with cherries and cherry juice (that’s the “rouge” part) which was quite delicious. Though it is flavored with fruit it is not a lambic beer, and it indeed much darker, and heavier than the Kriek. However, Kasteel Rouge isn’t at all bitter or very sweet, simply more savory than a lambic. If you don’t like cherries, than Kasteel puts out a simple dark ale. Yes, I love those Belgians and their beer…and maybe one day I will marry a Belgian beer-maker and live happily ever after.

The Women of WACCS

As a new woman in town, let alone a new VISTA, any connection or support that can be found is like a spring of water in the figurative (and literal..this is Nevada after all) desert. Though I was, and am, unlucky in some aspects of my posting, I hit the lottery by having an office within the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra. Everyday I am surrounded by supportive and empowering women that constantly move me with their tenacity and passion. At PSO (if you don’t know what that is, then please read the last post), baby VISTA’s are cautioned to take advantage of whatever resources they have within the community. In my case, the primary resource is the Director of WACCS, Vivienne French. A stone’s throw from my desk sits this magnificent woman who immediately went to work to make me feel appreciated and at home. Not only does she provide an endless supply of practical advice and contacts within the community, she tells me about the best places to visit in Reno and the surrounding areas. Within minutes of meeting me and hearing about my problems with housing, she asked me what I needed and gave me an armful of goodies. On a daily basis I ask her for advice and suggestions, and more than once she has stayed late to walk me through a crisis, both personal and professional. She has shared my victories and my sorrows, going so far as to hand me tissues and provide a shoulder to lean on, offered up suggestions for a fun weekend and praised my work (though she receives no benefit) to her colleagues and members of her board. For whatever higher power there may be, I must give thanks to be “housed” within this fabulous organization. But folks, I can’t stop there! Vivienne is not the only one that has made this drastic and difficult change in my life easier. The Education Coordinator at WACCS offers me just as much support and advice, and definitely helps me laugh at the barriers that I encounter. She gripes with me, just so that I don’t have to gripe alone (and that’s the worst, right!). I get to complain without feeling like a miserable person, and she congratulates me on my smallest of victories! What more can a VISTA ask for?! Oh yeah! Another woman who inspires me daily with her personal story! This other woman is a wonderful example of the good the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra does on a daily basis for a number of women. She greets me with a smile every day, and I am able to be a woman with her and not a VISTA. Whenever I leave the office to go do work for my own program, she quickly pulls the “sad face” and asks me not to go. During our breaks we talk about life, love….and other mysteries (name that song!), and give each other advice. One day I walked out of my office and pulled my famous quirky grin when she looked up, to which she replied, “You bring so much sunshine into the office.” That day was the day I knew I had found a family here. Yes, the women of WACCS keep me going and turn my frown upside down. Regardless of what the future holds for me, I will forever be in their debt.

The Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra is a wonderful organization that actually makes a difference in the community. They don’t just provide what families need, but they teach women to advocate for themselves. Do you know what this means? It means that this organization isn’t simply built around donations, or the simple solution; they are working towards making a sustainable difference, and I only wish that I was making as much of a difference in the community as they are. If you would like to make a donation, or learn more about the organization, click here.