Tuesday, May 27, 2008


So, after an amazing afternoon spent picnicking in the Black Forest, what could Brandon possibly do to top it? Why, he could take me to France, that's what!!

Since yesterday was a holiday for both of us, we took the opportunity to drive to Strassbourg. It's only about an hour and a half away, just over the French border, and perfect for a day trip. We got there right around lunch time, so the first order of business was to find something to eat. We had no idea where we were going, or what we were doing--we just put "Strassbourg" into the GPS and went--so at first we were well away from the touristy part of the city. We ended up in this tiny little Cantonese restaurant. Our waitress spoke only French with very little exception. And of course the menu was in French. We asked her what was good, and she pointed at something and said "specialty" so thats what we both got. It was pretty good, actually. There was a deep-fried shrimp, a meat pocket, a hush puppy, a stuffed noodle thing, and a very small chilled yellow pepper salad. It was a perfect portion for me, but little better than an appetizer for Brandon. At least it took the edge off for him, anyway.

After that we drove around until we could see the cathedral spire, and then headed for that. We were able to get a parking place right there next to the church, which turned out to be pretty central to the tourist section. The Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg, or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg, was amazing... It was begun in the late twelfth century, and took almost 200 years to complete. Do you know what they were building the the US in the twelfth century? Tepees. (Not to diminish Native American history and accomplishments, but you know what I mean.) It was a humbling experience to be there, standing in building that had been built nearly a thousand years prior, to place my feet in grooves created over 800 years worth of use. I lit a candle there, for my grandfather, and for Brandon's Grandmama. I don't know why, but it seemed appropriate. I took a lot of pictures, but none of them could really capture the essence of the place. I was....in awe.

The rest of our time there was trivial, by comparison. Not that it wasn't fun, or memorable. We got something more to eat in a cafe near the cathedral. I was still pretty full from my Cantonese meal, so I just got an order of creme brulee, which was delicious. Brandon got an escargot appetizer, because it was there for the trying. I tried one too, and though Brandon liked it, I just couldn't get past the texture. I literally had to choke the thing down, and to be honest, I barely even chewed it. Afterward, I was delighted to go back to my creme brulee. Bran was less satisfied with his main course... He got a local dish, with sausage ans sauerkraut. What he didn't know, is that he would be served a mountain of sauerkraut; everything else was basically just an after thought. Oh well, at least he tried it, right?

While we were sitting there, he noticed that there were people all the way at the top of the cathedral. So we wandered back over there, to try to figure out how to get up to the top ourselves. There was already a group up there, so while we were waiting, we went back to a street vendor and bought some gelatto ice cream cones. (oh, by the way, gelatto is YUM! I might not be a fan of American ice cream, but I just can't say no to Italian ice cream.) We finished them just as they opened the doors to allow more people to come up.

We hadn't gotten far before I decided that maybe that wasn't the best of ideas... It was 66 meters up to the top...better that 300 steep and uneven steps to get there. I felt so out of shape! My legs and lungs both were burning with the strain, and I was gasping for breath long before we got there. It was sad. I didn't hear Bran huffing and puffing at all. Of course, that might have been because I couldn't hear much at all over the sound of my own labored breathing, but I digress. It was worth it after all, once we got to the top. The panoramic view of the city was amazing. And, Brandon noticed that all of the stone blocks had been engraved with people's names and dates. I found myself wishing for a rubbing kit... It was crazy! One in particular stuck in my memory... "Johann Daniel (something) May 1196 Strasbvrg" I know that I don't remember it exactly, but I also know that I'm close. And no, the "v" is not a typo. Thats how it was written.

Crazy, right? Anyway, going back down was a lot easier than going up. At the bottom, there was a tram tour just about to leave, so we jumped on it. It was interesting, and quite informative. There is such history there... I hadn't appreciated just how much until I started listening to the tour narration. She noted the 4 remaining towers of the original Roman fortress, a civic building that was erected in the 1980's, and literally everything in between. Renaissance, Gothic, medieval, everything! All of it layered there together in one place, each building with its own unique story to tell. The sad part, to me, was her frequent reference to the things that had been lost in the WWII bombings there. Most of the destroyed historic buildings had been re-built in the old style, but it's not the same. Part of me wants to be disgusted, but then again...WWII is just as much a part of history as the rest of it. It is reasonable to expect that it would leave its mark on the world, just as much as the rest of it.

The whole trip served to give me a new perspective on the passage of time, and the lives that pass within time. Each life is so fleeting, so finite....yet the decisions we make, the things that we do can have an undeniably lasting impression on the face of the human race. It is strange to think of these things, to think beyond the realities of my day to day life. When I think of the future, I'm more often concerned with when I will next be able to see my family, when we will be able to start a family of our own, where the military will lead us next. Never do I think of what will remain when I am gone. What have the people of our age contributed to the historic landscape of the world? What will I, personally, contribute? My art? My writing? My children? Which will be the most important? Which will be the most lasting? My life stretches before me, and time stretches infinitely beyond that. My life feels insignificant by comparison.

I know I am certainly not the first to think of these things. I suppose that the grand scheme isn't so important, really. Life--and time--will continue to roll on regardless of what I think of. I can't help but to feel that it's the little things, and what I choose to do with them, that are important. The rest will follow on its own.

Sigh. I didn't mean to wax so philosophical... But I write what's in my head, you know? Heck, I often don't know what's in my head until I do write it. But, there it is.

As a side note, they ended up not needing those curtains that I made. Fantastic, right?


  1. I have never been brave enough to climb the cathedral spire, but Strassborg was the first place I tried escargot too! I liked it though!

  2. Fun day!
    It's not that they don't need the curtains..... they just don't need the curtains. Ha Ha they will be used though and you did a good job!