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Strasbourg’s other University

By |2017-01-06T11:16:34+01:00September 12th, 2011|Strasbourg|

Although strictly speaking the Université Populaire Européenne (UPE) is actually part of the University of Strasbourg it is very much regarded as something entirely separate from the City's sprawling educational establishment, which this year, as ever, is welcoming over 40,000 students. The reason being is that the UPE is where those of us whom have matured (beyond binge drinking and playing house music until 4am with the windows open), go to study for the sheer pleasure of personal development. For a small annual fee (40 €)  you can enrol to study any number academic, vocational or artistic courses throughout the year; paying 95€ for each 24 week course you take on top.  Which means, in case you hadn't already guessed, it's the perfect place to go to improve your understanding of French for a relatively small outlay. Incredibly, there are some 45 different language classes for non-francophones.  So whatever level you're at - there's bound to be something to whet your appetite.  Moreover, if you're a fluent French speaker already, you might want to consider some of the other [...]

Music Schools in Strasbourg

By |2017-01-06T11:16:34+01:00September 5th, 2011|Strasbourg|

For a city so small it is quite surprising to learn that Strasbourg has no fewer than 17 music schools within it's boundaries.  So if you, or your children (on Wednesdays for example), would like to learn an instrument, sing in a choir, play in an orchestra or simply study the art-form then you're spoiled for choice.  Some are specialist schools, others are colocated within the quartiers socio-culturel centres but all offer one-to-one teaching as well as group classes. With inscriptions starting next week, right now is the best time to start considering which one is right for you.  Pricing is usually per trimestre so remember to times by three to get the annual cost.  Note that whichever course you decide to take you will usually have to pay an annual membership fee to the school on top of your course fees. Now, I have no idea which ones are good or bad or whatever, so if you have any knowledge in this area - please feel free to share it below in the comments form. Otherwise - to [...]

Sweaty season

By |2011-08-21T19:39:22+01:00August 21st, 2011|Strasbourg|

Hot Summers, cold Winters... is pretty much the way to describe the climate here in Strasbourg.  In Summer though, while the idea of warmth might sound attractive, it is the inescapable humidity at night which drives local residents to the mountains or to cooler night air elsewhere in France (usually further south).  Daytime temperatures are currently averaging a nice 30 degrees, but at night we have to deal with 20 degrees and stifling humidity. Worse still, if you live in a stone building, the stone walls that absorb the heat by day simply radiate it at night - making sleep almost impossible without some form of air conditioning. It makes sense then to consider getting away in the summer to somewhere where the nights aren't quite so punishing.  We have just returned from a fantastic week in Les Landes in the Aquitane region of South West France where, we were glad to hear, we had managed to escape a minor heatwave back up north.  Even so, our nights down south were somewhat fractious due to excessive consumption of the [...]

Koenigshoffen ‘East’ or Robertsau ?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:35+01:00July 26th, 2011|Life in France, Strasbourg|

I recently received this wee message from Andrew who poses a number of not uncommon questions about Strasbourg.  Seeing as there'll be a vast influx of new students to the city very shortly - I thought an open reply might prove useful to other new readers of EiS? I am soon to be moving to Strasbourg for a year, and I am trying to find a place to live. I don't really speak much French at all (though I'm going to do an intensive course in the next few weeks). There are two apartments that I am considering at the moment, and I wonder if you might be able to give me an idea of what the areas are like. The first one is in Robertsau, and the second in Koenigshoffen East. From what I've read, Koenigshoffen can be a wee bit dodgy. Is that accurate? I can't really find any opinions on Robertsau though. It looks slightly more salubrious from the pictures and so on that I've seen, though it's less conveniently located for me. Hi Andrew, Interestingly [...]

Holiday? What Holiday?

By |2017-01-06T11:16:35+01:00July 3rd, 2011|Life in France, Strasbourg|

One major disadvantage of having kids abroad is having to trade in your time previously allotted to 'holidays' for visits back 'home' - to ensure your offspring get some quality time with their extended family. While in theory these visits need not be stressful nor expensive they are inevitably usually both - as well as downright exhausting.  It seems every time we return to Strasbourg after a lengthy sojourn in the UK we promise ourselves "Never again"; only to do it all again a few months later. There are three obvious alternatives to this annual / bi-annual / trimestrial pilgrimage: ignore the family and go and enjoy oneself elsewhere PROS: you get to go somewhere different every year and have as much of a real holiday as is possible with children in tow CONS: snubbing the family is likely to result in ex-communication, no more birthday presents and being written out of various wills; hate mail is also a strong possibility ensure the entire family make regular visits to see you PROS: no need to go anywhere; regular free [...]

Tout va pas bien

By |2017-01-06T11:16:35+01:00January 9th, 2011|Life in France, Strasbourg|

The town I grew up in, in the west of England, was blessed with but one miserable little theatre, and although it regularly hosted some very entertaining shows, it was on rare occasions that all 200 or so seats were filled. For I, like the majority of fellow town-folk, considered an evening out at the theatre as a somewhat eccentric activity, coming in way down on the list of possibilities: Discover the beers on tap at a new pub Appreciate the beers on tap at a favourite pub Stay in and watch TV Go to the town's one and only cinema Go to the town's one and only night-club Study and go to bed early Go to the town's one and only theatre Here in Strasbourg however, there are so many theatres that it is hard to justify doing much else when you find yourself free of an evening (unless of course you don't understand a word of French). Indeed, as bizarre as it may seem, the majority of my French friends are more likely to go and see [...]

Mont de Contades

By |2017-01-06T11:16:35+01:00December 30th, 2010|Life in France, Strasbourg|

It was our intention to head up to Champ de Feu, the nearest ski station to Strasbourg, to go sledging on Boxing/St. Stephen's Day this year, however this plan seemed hard to justify when 40 cm of snow settled in the City itself on Christmas morning; and given the fact too that the council had failed to grit any roads that night, taking a Peugeot 107 up a twisting icy mountain route to 1100m was likely to have been a regretful episode. Despite my own disappointment, the tiny wee slope on the south side of Parc du Contades proved to be a worthy substitute for our nippers, who both being under five years probably wouldn't have appreciated the high octane delights of the 300m+ luge piste in the Vosges anyway. There are however a few minor niggles with the slope that is formed once the luges come out: the local kids opt to form the slope on the steepest side of the hill, which thus results in the shortest slide; (and as much as I keep pointing out to [...]

Remember, remember the 8th of November

By |2017-01-06T11:16:36+01:00November 5th, 2010|Strasbourg|

For that is the day that free-parking ends in central Strasbourg. Admittedly it was something we rather enjoyed when we first arrived, being able to pull up outside your own house and park for an unlimited time for free was such a novelty, and it felt liberating almost, when compared with what we had to put up with in London (massive parking fees, bus-lane fines and the congestion charge). However, knowing the chaos that such freedom bestows upon the local community, I for one am glad to see the city take another step toward ending the car culture that so many of us are so addicted to. In the Contades area commuters have regularly treated the vicinity like a free park-and-ride zone six days a week, making it almost impossible for we residents to park anywhere near our respective abodes when we do have a car. In Strasbourg, like it or not, it's hard to argue against the introduction of such schemes when a big chunk of our local taxes go toward improving transport infrastructure. I'm not just [...]

The vital card

By |2017-01-06T11:16:36+01:00October 30th, 2010|Life in France, Strasbourg|

Rarely am I struck by such euphoria when opening letters from the RSI, the Régime Sociale des Indépendants - otherwise known as my health assurance providers, however today was such a day - for today I recieved my new Carte Vitale! Whoohoo! If you've no idea what a Carte Vitale is - let's just say that when you get one it's like getting free flights to New Zealand for the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final - a rare, and often once in a lifetime experience.* The reason for this euphoria is partly because I have had to endure seven months of bureaucracy and incompetence by the local agency Mutuelle de l'Est, since Stephen Godfrey's details spontaneously appeared on my old card in place of mine, and partly because my wife has yet to receive her new Carte Vitale having lost it almost two years ago. (She blames our then 18 month old son for the episode, but only a fool would hand over their Carte Vitale to anyone but a doctor or health assurance professional - so she only [...]

Working in the dark

By |2017-01-06T11:16:36+01:00October 19th, 2010|Life in France, Strasbourg|

You would be forgiven for thinking that this little phrase in France - travail au noir - refers to what the French are forced to do whenever the power generation workers go on strike, but it is in fact the vernacular for - Travail dissimulé - or 'dissimulated work'. Which basically means working illegally, usually for cash and paying no taxes. Of course no one in France would admit to doing as much, but my personal experience is that just about everyone who can do it - does. Cleaners, handymen, teachers, painters, drivers, hairdressers - you name it, if you hand over cash they'll give you an extra big smile - because the likelihood that they're going to give any of it to the state, as they should, is a million to one. There have been efforts made to eradicate the cash practices which are estimated to cost the country some 14 € bn in lost revenue.  For example, being able to offset 50% of all childcare related expenditure against tax is intended as a way to get families [...]

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