31 July 2009

Hot Dogs, Marymoor Park, 2009.0730 - the Pack

Some of the other contestants seen soaking their bodies on Thursday afternoon:

Reina (who arrived with Bella)

Ace (likes to steal tennis balls)

Turner (loved her mouse toy)

Bruce (also a first-time swimmer)

anonymous Labradoodle (my fault for not bringing a notepad along)

If you would like to purchase a high-quality print or ten, please send inquiries to ParkGalleryPetPics at gmail dot com, with the print name in the subject line. Thanks!

Hot Dogs, Marymoor Park, 2009.0730 - Pete, Hogan

Introducing Pete (Australian Shepherd) and Hogan (Chesapeake Bay Retriever mix).

For Pete, this was his first venture into wet.

Here, we see Pete gaining a semblance of revenge for the human who made him damp. He's holding his leash in an unorthodox manner, and connected to the leash in a variety of locations are the human's keys, money (sealed in a baggie), and attached credit cards. Oops...

For Hogan, this was old-hat.

If you would like to purchase a high-quality print or ten, please send inquiries to ParkGalleryPetPics at gmail dot com, with the print name in the subject line. Thanks!

Hot Dogs, Marymoor Park 2009.0730 - Bella

The past few days have been incredibly hot, reaching over 100 Wednesday and Thursday. Among the better ideas I've had lately was to cool off in the Marymoor / Sammamish Slough. Wednesday irritated me to no end, because I felt no one would want to come to the Slough with their canine companion, so I brought no gear.

And missed photo op after photo op.

But I was cool, because the water and the dogs were cool...

Thursday, camera in hand, I took a few snaps. Here are some of the better shots I've triaged so far; there will be more in the days to come as I have a chance to weed my way through what didn't die on the first and second culls:

Allow me to introduce Bella, the Whippet, and the woman she owns, Amy

If you would like to purchase a high-quality print or ten, please send inquiries to ParkGalleryPetPics at gmail dot com, with the print name in the subject line. Thanks!

Shatner Reads Palin

What more needs to be said?

2006: Road to Calais

31 July

An uneventful drive of perhaps 400 miles from Bretagne to Calais. Points of interest:

# More charming towns in the middle of everywhere

# Driving south along the Seine west of Rouen, doing so because a wrong turn was taken, adding one hour to the trip

# Finding the towns of Le Trait and Duclair as a result, more than making up for the directional issues

# Leaving rain in Bretagne, to find more rain in Rouen, and bright sunshine in Calais

# Following a very large hay truck and humungous yacht (not a land yacht this time) for almost thirty miles because (1) narrow roads made it difficult to pass, and (2) a "diversion" (detour) in the same place as three weeks ago... For a short while, about five miles, I was also behind a propane tanker, a massive two-county-sized hay baler, and a double-length tractor-trailer rig. They peeled off one at a time within miles of Agincourt

# Numerous large wind turbine farms on ridges as you approach Calais

Le Ferme de Wolphus is where I sleep tonight, a working farm about 30 minutes drive south of Calais. It is notable for (1) being truly quiet (2) except when the TGV (the high-speed train) rolls by about 400 metres away from my room, (3) the international supporting cast (at the moment I arrived, two New Zealanders and two Swiss, and a 10-year-old French girl named Justine, visiting her grandparents who live in the gite also run by the farm), and (4) a lot of fairly-tame animals (llamas, a horned sheep (the ram was impressive), peafowl, chickens, turkeys, a tiny pony named Oslo, and a Golden Retriever named Orion. I'm sure there were others around, but if so I saw them not.

Justine was insistent that she was to be my shadow for the afternoon as I wandered the farm in search of interesting photo ops... She also made it clear my French was not good enough. (grin)

The common room downstairs became the evening entertainment spot (no TV, no phone, no internet, etc), with juices and wine, cheese and breads, and lots of conversation bouncing between French and English (with several different accents to each).

At midnight, sleep was easy.

30 July 2009

2006: La Grande Fête

30 July

While I was packing and cleaning for the move to the Sussex coastline on Tuesday, Madame Simone came by with her son, and invited me to her 80th birth anniversary party, La Grande Fête du Anniversaire (je pense). The afternoon version took several hours, included about 40 friends and family, and lots of cheek kissing on arrival and departure. Champagne, brochettes of fruits and cheeses, and appetizers were very nice, and the highlight: her son presented her with a CD PowerPoint photo retrospective of her life that also included two speeches by people who couldn't attend.

The evening edition started at 7pm, and didn't end until, well, to be honest, I have no idea when it ended. I left just before 1am, and it was still going strong at that point. It was an incredible soirée, with great food (two pates, several salads, rare roast beast, a fruit cocktail that really was divine (and almost cocktail), more than ample wine (for those with said prediliction), and fantastic company.

Dancing in Madame's large home was still quite a crowded affair, as there were table after table filled with people... Among the highlights:

# the accidental removal (and quite spectacular lightshow) when a lightbulb from the ceiling above the main dinner table was inadvertently cooled by flying champagne. Note to self: do not dance on the seat of chairs with a glass of champagne in your hand, and then wave your arms violently in the direction of anything explosive. And no, it was not me that popped the bulb

# numerous rather raucous, ribald, and basically just plain loud singing "contests" between tables that included climbing on chairs, swaying VERY too and fro, singing at the top of your lungs to guitar-playing, all at irregular intervals (including as I was leaving),

# a type of conga line that wound its way through the house several times, and

# René-Louis (Madame Simone's son) and the rest of the family made it clear that I was to consider myself part of said family from this day forward...

It was easily a night to remember.

29 July 2009


Weather, as of two minutes ago.


Baby, It's Warm Outside

Temperature at midnight is still around 78 (25C), and not expected to get below 70 (21C).

Temperature just a few short hours ago crossed 100 (38C), and is expected to be still hotter by mid-afternoon.

One can hope this isn't going to become the Seattle norm in years to come. I like green, and don't do well in landscapes of brown and tan... We haven't had a lot of spring this year, and almost no rain since May.

27 July 2009

2006: Westward Ho...

27 July

Perhaps the last roadtrip of the visit, I head west into Finistère. First stop, Saint Pol de Léon.

An interesting town that, were it not for Roscoff just down the highway, might not be as touristy as it is today. As well, the circus will be in town during the weekend, so crowds are quite impressive. I won't say anything about the fact the circus will be in most Bretagne towns over the next month or so; you can't go too far without seeing a sign stating so, when, and where...

Oddly, while the Cathedral is a fairly large structure,about two blocks away is the Chapelle Notre Dame du Kreisker, a very small church on the main, but the steeple is much taller than either of the two Cathedral towers. While I'd love to tell you more about it, within is little more than an exhibition of what the church itself looked like in previous years, and thus is safe to miss.

The Cathedral, though, is difficult to miss. Yes, there is construction outside, but the construction seems exclusively outdoors.

More remarkable things within to photograph, but I won't bother you with the details unless you express an interest. It almost seems as if I've spent a vast amount of time seeking out nothing but churches. To be honest, I'm immensely more fascinated by their history and the accomplishments of the people who put them together, provided for their interior beauty, etc. It's just that there are so many in comparison to the UK, and there aren't many chateaus or castles in this part of Bretagne that are photo- or visit-worthy, so that task falls to the local l'eglise. Yes, there were many churches along the route taken today. Et fini.

In Landerneau, the river Elorn bisects the town square, flowing underneath le Pont de Rohan, the bridge itself which is inhabited by village buildings. In the river were one of my other passions, birds. In this case, one Mute Swan,

one Black Swan (which the internet tells me belongs in Australia, not France),

a few Jackdaws, and predominant: Black-headed Gulls.

Oh. I've learned the birds I thought were Bonaparte's Gulls are really Black-headed Gulls, which have brown heads, unlike the black heads on the Bonaparte's Gulls. Go figure.

Anyway. It was fun photographing birds for a change, and the Swans posed several times while they preened.

Because this isn't necessarily about the church itself, but more about beliefs and history, I'll tell this story. Above the D712 sits the town of La Roche Maurice. I've just finished walking through the church, noted its few points of interest, and was wandering back to the car when a young gentleman approached. He is one of the docents for the church and, between his English and my French, he managed to convey a fascinating story about this rather non-descript place. My favourite part detailed the story of l'Ankou, which is the Bretagne version of the Grim Reaper, or Death.

Apparently, many churches sculpted images of l'Ankou, and placed them at variable points around the consecrated ground. In La Roche Maurice, he is but a small skull and bones figurehead just above an outside holy water font. When asked why, among the reasons was that people would visit the graves of their loved ones and would bless themselves in front of death as if to say, "Yes, I will be yours eventually, but not today". How l'Ankou is depicted subtly changes from parish to parish, but not the basic storyline.

I've also noticed a great many close (consecrated ground surrounding the church) entrances have a raised concrete barricade that requires one to step over with care to enter the grounds. It was my belief this was to keep the dead inside, and because I rarely saw this effect in places where there were no graves, I held to that belief. My docent friend said the reason it was done here, and to his knowledge elsewhere, was to keep cows from entering the grounds.


26 July 2009

This Week, 9 Months Earlier

Not sure what to make of this, so I'll just put it out there:

From 01 July to 25 July, my friends and family have one birth anniversary.
From 02 August to 31 August, there are two.

During the week of 26 July to 01 August, there are six.

I've never thought of the Halloween holiday as a time for fecund sex, but the data point seems obvious...

Bonne Grande Fête, Madame Simone. Happy Birth Anniversary Roger, Heather, Sandy, Spike, and Riley! :)

2006: Madame Simone and St John's Finger

26 July

I just found out my southern neighbour, Madame Simone Le-Goff has turned 80 years old today. There must be something in the water around here; she looks like a young 60, runs around as if she were 25, and says she feels like a young girl. She is a retired teacher of young children in the local schools. I hope to be as physically- and mentally-active when I'm her age...

OK, let's be honest. I'd be happy to REACH 80... (grin)


[ 2009: Simone's husband was in the diplomatic corps during the Algerian war.]

There is a town in the county of Finistère, named St Jean du Doigt, which I believe translates as "St John's Finger". The history behind the name is something I will have to investigate when I return...

[ 2009: The not-so-young town dates mostly to the mid 1500s, and bits back to at least 1380. For what it's worth, even three years later there is barely information about this place, and the only bit I can read on the name has to do with someone naming a song after the town. Hey, it's a great name.]

24 July 2009

Amazing Eggplant Fries

I found a recipe for Eggplant Fries about two hours ago that simply beggared belief. Given the length in text and the number of pictures, it looked so simple, so quick. It was.

The recipe below was adjusted slightly from this website, and I can categorically state it was magnificent:

1 avg size eggplant
1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. granulated garlic
pinch dried oregano
pinch dried parsley
1 Tbls. sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
olive oil
  • Shave the skin (not sure why, but it didn't take long with veg peeler)
  • While doing this, heat the skillet with oil enough to coat the bottom slightly
  • Cut the eggplant into french-fry-shaped pieces about 3-4 inches in length
  • Plop / dredge them in the flour/spices dry mix
  • Drop them into the skillet, turning as they brown
  • Remove from skillet when browned on all sides
From start to finish, it took me about 15 minutes, and while they were good on their own, a drizzle of Costco's Spinach Salad dressing (the stuff that comes with the spinach salads) worked very nicely.

For myself, I prefer the innards of the eggplant to be the consistency of a good crisp french fry, but you can probably enjoy them softer... For this carnivore, I'll be doing eggplant more frequently from now on.

2006: Le Vieux-Marché, Part 2

24 July

We're back: The fountain is named for Saint Erwan. Which has gotten me to thinking just how many saints there must be in the Catholic Pantheon. How it is almost impossible to visit ANY town without finding a good thirty percent of said town with things named for saints. Roads. Towns. Churches and chapels (obvious). Schools. Fountains. Restaurants. Beaches. Rocks, including menhirs (such as Uzec) that predate Christianity by thousands of years. You name it.

OK, someone else named it. If I didn't know better, I'd say the Catholic Church has gone out of its way to canonize saints so it can name things.

Before my visit, I'd never heard of Erwan. Efflam. Jacut. Barbe. Eloi. Mayeux. Gilles. Suzanne. Eutrope. Lunaire. Launeuc. Gelven. Brieuc. Or Tugdual, for whom there is a fairly-substantial cathedral named in Tréguier. Or any of another few thousand place names I've encountered along the way. And churches almost always start with "Notre-Dame" (Our Lady)... If you recall, it wasn't a month ago I photographed Our Lady of the Snows, Our Lady of the Whooping Cough, and untold others. Once you've traveled here, it's hard to associate Notre Dame with only that simple little Parisien cathedral on the banks of the river Seine.

Hmmm. I seem to have lost my way. Encore. One would think I can be turned offcourse by the unusual. Ignore the above. :)

Anyway, over the next two hours I visit the towns of Plouaret (Eglise de Notre-Dame - closed), Lanvellec (Eglise Saint-Brandan - closed), and Plouzélambre (Eglise Saint-Sylvester - closed).

This pattern held for all but two churches the rest of the day, but more on those later...

Roman baths can be found along the eastern shoreline of Plestin-les-Gréves, in a site called Le Hogolo. The original bath was constructed as part of a villa almost 2000 years ago, and added to during the next 300 years... Subsequently, the site was in turn either demolished or allowed to return to its native state under grasses and drifting sand dunes.

One of the churches open was a simple affair in Guimaëc that was supposed to be closed for lunch. Though simple, it was currently exhibiting numerous relics from surrounding parishes as they underwent complete restoration (as in Le Prajou, which was bombed into ruin status by World War II) or annual maintenance. I found this out inadvertently as the caretaker attempted to lock me into the church for lunch, then noticed this tourist enamoured with several bas relief copies of Christ's Passion. Rather than kicking me out, we spent the next 20 minutes discussing the various relics within, and she wouldn't let me go until she was satisfied I was satisfied with the visit. She was incredibly friendly and knowledgeably-passionate about the church and its contents.

Onward following the coastline (mostly) through the tiny hamlet of Trédrez, and more fun / unusual statuary appears, this time in tree branches, metal workings, and granite:

The last bit of this roadtrip ends in a town named La Yaudet, where the Léguer River meets the English Channel. As busy as other locations were today, La Yaudet was almost sleepy. The beautiful landscape, the soft breezes, and the late-afternoon sun all conspired to make this stop quite pleasureable. The village itself made for interesting viewing, as witness this home at Number 62, named Ty-Noemie:

The village church is Notre-Dame du Yaudet, dedicated to the sea and those who sail it. Inside, there are numerous sailing ships hanging from the ceiling, and pictures line the walls. On the altar is a reclining Madonna I'm told is one of very few in France.

2006: A Brief Interlude

24 July

Oops. Just lost power (sounds like a transformer blew just down the road). I will need to turn off the laptop to conserve power until it returns... À bientôt...

[ Much Later ]

Bonjour, encore. I will return to our main story in a minute. But first, a comment about the power loss. The neighbourhood was down for about four hours, so with laundry brought in quickly from the back garden, the game became "listen to the neighbours" as they came by on foot, on bike, in cars, all asking what was up, when was power coming back, etc... The grapevine was alive and kickin', and it was enjoyable. I got to use new and almost-new words in conversation: thunder (le tonnerre) and thunderstorm (l'orage), lightning (les éclairs), and candle (la bougie)... Oh, I failed to mention our thunderstorm. Remember a few blogs ago when I said it was important to do your laundry when it's warm and dry outside? Well, laundry was started when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Two hours later, power failure occurs about the time the sky has no blue in it, and thunder is a regular sound from the south...

It was almost done when it rained.

What an Entrance!

This has to be one of the coolest wedding entrances I've ever seen.


Even though I have never met them, I would love to be part of something Like This, and would love to be part of whatever they were planning for their 50th :)

2006: Le Vieux-Marché, Part 1

24 July

Short road-trip today, about 80 miles round-trip... Starting point - Le Vieux-Marché, the Plan d'Eau. Weather is spectacular, temperatures in the mid- to high-20s, light breeze, and only very high wisps of clouds to mar the blue from horizon to horizon...

Once again, the little booklet comes through with interesting places to visit. I'm aiming for Plouaret and find a private pond with a Black Swan in Le Vieux-Marché instead.

Some Coots (unidentified variety) and Barn Swallows diving to the water surface to purloin the insect goodies thereon are also visible. As I watch this tableau, I notice a little stone fountain of some age (hundreds of years, at a guess) that bubbles what I'm guessing is spring water. At first, I thought the older gentleman who was around the fountain was doing maintenance or cleanup, but he (and other locals while I watched) were coming by with buckets to be filled with fountain water... What they did with the water remains a mystery as I didn't ask...

21 July 2009

Quotes, # 015: Cleaver Logic

Remember watching television in the late 50s and early 60s? When everyone you knew understood who you were talking about when you talked about "the Beaver?"

The photo was taken from my back porch in a tiny town in northwestern France. This very feral kitten was just a few months old when I moved in and, unlike his parents and sister, was Almost Friendly by the time I moved away.

About the only tame thing he did was eat my cat food.

This image, as well as all of the preceding Quotes, are for sale as physical art you can put on your office or home walls. Our example here is available in 12x18"and 20x30"posters. Feel free to email me if you'd like to own this piece of American Pie(ty). Be the first on your block to be the first on your block.

All rights reserved, © caren park, http://RealistAtLarge.blogspot.com.

Jimmy Carter's Opinion

I've always thought James Earl Carter, once US President, was one of our most honest and thoughtful presidents, that he was as easily elected into a world he had little control over as he was ousted from it.

Today, there is an opinion piece from an Australian publication by Mr Carter that, in my eyes, elevates my personal opinion of him above and beyond what I'd believed before.
"I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy - and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it."
One can hope the tide is turning, both for Mr Carter's reputation and the object of his opinion.

2006: Metal Owl

One of the things you notice when you travel this particular region of Bretagne is the love for large-scale artistic metalwork. And, among the many I've encountered, an interesting one displays on the eastern edge of the N767 highway, near Cavan.

I honestly don't know the "real" name, nor why it is where it is, but I call it the "Metal Owl".

It appears to be fairly well-known to locals, even though only visible from the highway and, given said highway is a busy place, not somewhere you'd think folks would stop. But, stop they do.

A few weeks ago, as an example, someone left a computer monitor as an offering at its feet. This week, no monitor...

[ 2009: I've looked a few times since, and have yet to find even so much as a blog entry regarding this unusual sculpture. If anybody knows why it is where it is, its name, etc, I would appreciate hearing from you. I believe it was located in this area ]

20 July 2009

2006: Set on Bake

20 July

I've only gone out a few times the past five days, partly due to poor weather, but mostly because I was actually tired of driving any appreciable distance. Go Figure; but, given my advancing years, perhaps not such a bad thing (grin). Even so, the beach called twice, and I accidentally found myself among the Germans, the Dutch, the British, and the French, each of us enjoying the "Set on Bake" temperatures, high tide, and mostly blue skies.

Tan lines on my feet are Birkenstocks in shape, and probably for life. Shoot me now. :)


Auto-Ecoles (driving schools) are in every town, even the smallest, and any town of size will usually have several. I will make no comment beyond this regarding the quality of the graduates, though I have to admit the French stop at ALL stop signs (no California stops here), stop for red lights at ALL signals, and make more than a reasonable attempt to be "doing" the speed limit when rolling through small towns, if only because there are hefty fines and automatic radar traps with nary a gendarme in sight.

18 July 2009

Jetty Island, 2009 v 1

I led a small group of Eastside Audubon photography buffs to Jetty Island yesterday, and it was an incredible day to be walking around. While temperatures around the Sound hit 90 and above, the island was a moderate 75-ish near the water.

Amazing amounts of Very Large drift logs and seaweed onshore... Alternating warm and cold water on the shoreline, sometimes separated by as little as two feet of distance...

Among the fun sights:
  • Great Blue Herons fishing in the mudflats above the lagoon,

  • Barn Swallows fledging near the new "Kraig Hansen Office Building,"
  • Caspian Terns, though not as many as in previous years,

  • numerous Bonaparte's Gulls, including at least one in breeding plumage,

  • far more Spotted Sandpipers than I can remember seeing in previous years,

  • a single Short-billed Dowitcher,
  • a few Semi-palmated Plovers,
  • near the end of our stay, Western and Least Sandpipers that treated us as scenery, allowing decent closeups,

  • a nest of Osprey on the east middle of the island, with two relatively-new chicks, and

  • a pair of what I think were just-hatched Western Gulls, on the closed dock next to the island "marina"

There were also a few unidentified much smaller terns (about 1/3 smaller than the prevailing Caspian) flying around.

Our next visit should be in about two weeks (tides). If you are interested in joining us, let me know...

15 July 2009

2006: 34 Hours, 7 Days, 3 Weeks

15 July

Still more driving, and I'm finally back in the Pedernec neighbourhood again. I've driven over 2700 kilometres in the past week, most of it in four days of insane "gotta be there", wherever "there" was for the next moment. One-thousand six-hundred miles (give or take) during 34 hours of behind-the-wheel. Je suis TRÈS fatigué, and I will probably spend the next day or three just puttering around the apartment, doing laundry, catching up with Madame, feeding the cats, and reminding myself I don't have to BE anywhere for a few weeks.

And that is a bit sad, in and of itself. My journey here will be over in three weeks. The time has gone by far too quickly, and I'm not quite ready to let go of this dream visit just yet.

14 July 2009

2006: Bastille Day

14 July

Johan has been delivered safely and efficiently to Leuven. After a very long drive, I find myself in Chartres this morning. It has been a while since I've been awed by the size of a church. However, Chartres comes pretty darn close. When you can easily see the church (and nothing else of the town) from over 7 miles away, that's pretty impressive. And inside, so many things to see.

# Coincidentally, I've recently read two books that describe the Labyrinth
located within the nave. Nothing quite prepares you, though; it's one thing to read about, quite another to watch pilgrims walk its path. Admittedly, I was tempted.

# Numerous side chapels, some with their own individual stained glass "stories". I think someone once said stained glass was the Middle Age equivalent of the cartoon

# Numerous Rose Windows. Most churches have one. Chartres has several

# On the horseshoe-shaped outer wall of the Chapelle du Saint-Sacrement are incredible carvings detailing a storyline probably available at the gift shoppe in a variety of trinkets and books, as well as the internet itself. My fault; I failed to pick up documentation to augment the tale here. However, among the more interesting is a man on horseback,
surrounded by what appear to be peasants, and two headless religious leaders, one on either side. Headless Guy Stage Right may have lost his head due to erosion, age, accident, etc, but Headless Guy Stage Left is this way by design. It has been suggested by a friend in Buenos Aires this may be Saint Denis, beheaded for being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people, and he seems always to be portrayed quite calmly holding his mitred head in his hands as if it were a perfectly-normal "thing".

Two hours or so west of Chartres, and the landscape is sunflowers...

Another two hours on, and the town of Domfront on the N176 has been left behind. While the heat isn't horrible, the humidity has become North Carolina in August. I'm looking for a reason to stop and what I find is much humbler than Chartres, but at least as human in its way:
The lighting would have been perfect very early in the morning, but you have to admit it's not too bad now... Mortared stone out-buildings, slate roofs, timbered framing, and even though there is more than a little wear and tear, it feels like these buildings have been loved since day one.

The heat and humidity calm down a bit as the car and its inhabitant get closer to the English Channel, and the two-hour theme continues as Mont Saint-Michel appears. This is the first time I've actually encountered the prophesied summer crowd, and it's impressive. Land yachts and tourist buses everywhere, hundreds of cars parked legal and not, and people walking or rolling slowly away from the tourist trap towards the medieval town.

This is one location I'd love to spend a few days given its apparent size. I'd probably want to come on the off-season, when May or mid-September should be perfect for weather and crowds. I will try not to think about the fact I was here in May this year and didn't visit...

Oh, and today is Bastille Day. It's been interesting finding open petrol stations, markets, restaurants, and hotels while tooling around the backroads of rural France.

12 July 2009

2006: Historic Countryside

12 July

Early morning is spent finding a petrol station (they were there by the dozen until we left the beaten path), then in the grandeur of the church of St Martin-Arlon, Belgium. It's just a few miles from the border between Belgium and Luxembourg, and my visit there a few years back was one I've been wanting to share since.

While the sunshine was not as brilliant as that day in March, the church itself delivered. With highly-detailed stained glass, especially within the Rose Window over the altar, the grey-marble pulpit, and the burnished-wood confessionals along the north wall, this church is among my five favourites for overall beauty.

The Rose Window is the star of the show. In the centre is a bright red medallion naming God in Hebrew. Surrounding are angels, and on the outer edge are the 12 zodiacal signs, though I am curious why the zodiac was included. Mary, St John the Baptist, the sun and moon complete the window.

The foundation for the church itself was set in 1907, and completed just in time for World War I. It was designed and built in the style of classic Gothic for the end of the 13th century. The octagonal spire and bronze cross tower 300 feet over the neighbourhood, and total square footage pretty closely resembles an American football pitch.

On the road again, we decided that, due to road works on the main highway between Arlon and Brussels, we would try our luck with the slower path through the western edge of the Ardennes, touring past fairytale towns that each have a 20th-century tale to tell regarding humanity. Bastogne, Malmedy, Spa, Houffelize, Esch sur Sûre (displayed here), and hundreds (if not thousands) of others; each story different, yet remarkably similar. It is hard to imagine over one million combatants in this area during the winter of 1944 and the following spring, each killing for its own dogma, causing such destruction and pain, especially with a countryside 62 years later so incredibly beautiful and tranquil... The memorial in Malmedy to the civilians who died when bombed during December 1944 was especially poignant. It posts not only the names of the dead, but their age as well. From enfants barely months old to elders in their nineties, all were swept aside by events beyond ability to change their fate.

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Most of northern France appears to be quite agricultural, which surprised me (and I'm not completely sure why). Corn, wheat, barley, sunflowers, romaine lettuce, you name it, it's grown here. Town after town surrounded by farm and dairy land as far as the eye can see. If it weren't for the signs (and the language), you could persuade yourself you were in Iowa or Nebraska quite easily. Even near Chartres, which is (I'm guessing) less than 60 miles from Paris, you are surrounded by the green of plenty.


Condoms are regularly available in vending machines outside pharmacies (and elsewhere). A good thing, in my not-so-humble opinion. However, public urination for men is either legal or is at least condoned. I thought it was an aberration of my last visit, but no. Some at least attempt to find a tree or large bush, but others just pull over and anchor aweigh. Culture shock; France, Belgium, Holland, there must be something in the water, no pun intended.


French television is a trip to watch. From Spongebob Squarepants ("Bob Lépange") to naked men and women in commercials, you certainly aren't in Kansas anymore. Oh, and to the best of my poor channel-surfing recollection of Bob, he sounds more macho here, too (grin).

11 July 2009

2006: Differdange

11 July

Puttering around can be fun in Differdange. We were treated to a village market all over the town centre, selling everything from rotisserie chickens to clothing, children's toys, jewelry, hot dogs,

fresh fruit, vegetables, and the like. Cats lying on narrow window ledges were tenaciously asleep amid the commotion,

even as a bell-clanging gnome toned innext to a garden clock that was probably not connected to any accurate atomic clocks. Oh, and a witch sailed by...

Luxembourg City is a favourite of mine, from the Place du Constitution to the Grand Ducal Palace, the Casino to Cathedralé Notre-Dame de Luxembourg, the Casemates north and south.

I'm already thinking of spending a few weeks here sometime in the next few years.

The main language is Luxembourgheise (an intricate combination of French, German, and other influences). Johny says most of his countryfolk learn Lux first at home, then in school are required to learn basic French, German, and English. For the younger generation, it is not uncommon to know these fluently, and to acquire others as the need arises. The US should be so bold...