Monthly Archives: March 2008

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Meatloaf in disguise

By | 2008-03-25T15:42:20+00:00 March 25th, 2008|Strasbourg|

Now, this may be something particular to Alsace, what with it's strongly German influenced attitude to cuisine, but I have been caught out twice by French foodstuffs in disguise. The first case was when I purchased a 'Tarte au Riesling' from the butchers. A pie-like object that appeared to be something akin to a steak and kidney pie - but with Pork and Riesling (white wine) as the filling. Sounds nice doesn't it? But to my surprise (and horror) it was little more than meatloaf-en-croute. A solid lump of minced pork-bits with a pastry crust. Most of which went straight in the bin after dinner. The second instance was when I purchase a roasting 'joint' at the supermarket. 'Roti de veau forestier' (forest worker's veal roast) is what it said on the packet, so should I be forgiven for thinking that I was buying a hunk of veal? No. If it had said 'roti de veau' then yes, veal is what it would have been, but the addition of the 'forestier' adjective indicates (obviously!) that it's actually an elongated [...]

The discovery of France

By | 2017-01-06T11:16:52+00:00 March 18th, 2008|Strasbourg|

Having finally finished reading Graham Robb's hefty tome on French domestic history (it was my on-the-loo read for about two months) I thought I should write a few words... First of all if all you've ever read is anecdotal and summary histories of France, this is a good step towards the real thing, without getting too embroiled in dates, names, places and politics. Robb delves into the everyday real history of France from the sixteenth century onwards, highlighting the key changes and discoveries that have gone to lay the foundations of present day French culture, and more often than not, it makes fascinating reading. I was amazed to learn: Roman roads provided the best transport links around the country right until the arrival of the railways it took over a hundred years for the metric system to replace all previous systems (take note Britain) the majority of French people didn't actually speak French until long after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo (they were speaking Alsatian, Breton, Occitan ...) Strasbourg Cathedral narrowly escaped demolition after the secularisation of France the origins [...]

Eaux-les-Bains: cubicle humour

By | 2008-03-10T15:28:10+00:00 March 10th, 2008|Strasbourg|

I was lucky enough to catch Eaux-les-Bains at the Pont d'Eau in Ostwald on Friday night. As I have previously mentioned this is a comedy show directed by Jean-Luc Falbraird, creator and artistic director of the Kafteur comedy club in Strasbourg. Happily for us foreigners Eaux-les-Bains is 'sans parole'; meaning it's a wordless or, if you prefer, 'mime' production. So if you're an Anglophone this is one of the few chances you'll get to see some live French comedy in Strasbourg/Alsace - and actually understand what's going on 100% of the time! In reality the cast are far from silent throughout the production, but it is true to say that if your comprehension of French is nil, then this won't spoil your understanding (nor enjoyment) of the show. So what's it all about? Essentially the show is a montage of comic sketches set in a health resort. Though, unlike a sketch show, there is a strong through-line of well formed characters and plot-moments to tie it altogether. The ingenious set enables the cast to seamlessly transform the stage into [...]

A very blustery day

By | 2008-03-05T12:41:51+00:00 March 5th, 2008|Strasbourg|

The prevailing weather systems that move west-to-east across Europe can bring a variety of climatic conditions to Alsace. In the past week, we've had snow, rain, sleet, blazing sunshine, warm days, freezing nights and bizarrely - one or two very blustery days. The reason a blustery day in Strasbourg is bizarre is because 'wind' is the one meteorological condition that we don't get a great deal of here. This is thanks to the Vosges and the Schwarzwald mountains sitting just to the west and east, where most prevailing air currents are stopped in their tracks, giving us near windless weather most of the year, and very often cloudless too. When it snows or rains it comes straight down, not sideways like it does in the UK and Ireland. So the inside-out umbrella is practically an unknown phenomenon here. I have difficulty in understanding why many people believe that the best places in France are to be found along the south coast - because these places are usually whipped senseless by howling winds all year round. If you ask me [...]

How to increase buying power – step 1

By | 2008-03-03T18:03:08+00:00 March 3rd, 2008|Strasbourg|

First of all I will plead ignorance as to how the supermarket chains choose their locations around the country, but one thing is for sure: in Strasbourg it's fixed. What I mean is, the monster hypermarchés or even the large local supermarkets, all appear to enjoy precisely no local competition. This is either due to the chains operating a cartel (which is illegal and hard to prove) or it is down to the local government planning process. In Strasbourg for example one chain enjoys almost exclusive access to the Strasbourg market: The Auchan Group (which includes Galeries Gourmande, ATAC, and Simply). No other chain has such a grip on the populaous' supply of groceries. Not a Carrefour nor an E.LeClerc in sight. The nearest Carrefour is in Mulhouse and the nearest other competitors are all tucked away a in the commuterbelt. (Hoenheim - Super U; Vendenheim - Cora; Erstein - E.LeClerc; Schiltigheim - Rond Point) And even here, these stores enjoy almost exclusive access to the local market too. Now, I'm not suggesting that the cathedral be knocked down [...]