A Travellerspoint blog

May 2010

Day tripping around the Alsace

What Katie did... (in Lyon) The Alsace and venturing over the border to Luxembourg

semi-overcast 15 °C

What did Katie do...?
So my lovlies since my last update I have been on a few weekend/day trips, the first of which was to Lyon which was really fun as my friend Katie came to visit from London. We had an entertaining weekend of of films, fun, the standard Lyon chocolat viennois and formule midi at Paul and a wee bit of sightseeing.
Once again it was that magnificent "trompe d'oeil" wall that just stole our attention and entertained us quite a lot more than it probably should have.


Another source of diversion was during our night out dancing when a young gentleman was trying to a girl we were with. He was trying quite hard, a little too hard I might add. After several failed attempts he then made one final stab at getting her attention, appealing to his brute force and "immense strength" causing us to rather insensitively break out into giggles and quite vocally suggest this might not be the case.

He took great offense and after a few more minutes of continuing to brag about his immense strength he agreed to prove it by doing thirty press ups in exchange for a kiss. Of course, we did not seriously think he would just get down on the cobbled floor and do thirty press-ups. And of course he didn't.

However, ladies and gentlemen, what he did do was thirty press-ups on top of two bollards, yes bollards. Feet perched on one, arms outstretched with his hands on the other one.

And what happened after this silly, if slightly impressive feat? Did he get his kiss? Or the girl?
Well, no. This is real life, not Hollywood.

We also went on a trip to Luxembourg City which that particular day had decided to adopt the Cheshire climate.
Before we went to Luxembourg however we went and stayed the night in Tati's aldea near Longwy.

I really liked Luxembourg and everyone was really friendly and amazingly trilingual. We even found coffees bigger than a thimble which made for a nice change. One of the trilingual men we met in a cafe bought all of our drinks just because we moved tables for him and the rest of his family and friends.

It was one of those film moments when Erika went to pay and we were told that the bill had lready been taken care of!
We subsequently decided that either they were really really grateful we had moved or that amongst the other numerous languages that man spoke, one was in fact Spanish and that he had heard us discussing how cute him and his little girl were. Either way, free coffee!
I did like Luxembourg in spite of the weather BUT it was a very teeny, tiny capital city.

The second day trip inspired by a rush of "pleassse can we escape Nancy" angst took us on a spontaneous Easter Monday trip to Colmar in the Alsace. It was about 2 or 3 hours away and we travelled through snow, rain and various villages which ranged from quaint to hideously ugly
However, we arrived in the dull outskirts and prepared ourselves for a very disappointing day. It didn't look promising but luckily on arriving in the centre we found a lovely, charming colourful town with an Easter market and lots of European flags (though not a Spanish one in sight bizarrely) and some nice views

Posted by Sianieee 09:54 Archived in France Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

I got what in Gothenburg? Got stuck that's what...

Yes. I do love a pun.

sunny 12 °C

So, I've just arrived back to Nancy after an eventful few weeks in other parts of Europe.
However before I detail my adventures in the land of caviar, rye crackers and Estrella crisps
(you Russian lovers know what I'm talking about of course), I shall tell you all about what happened even before I left France.
Lou's visit
So, my lovely little (though in saying little I am choosing to ignore the fact she now towers above me) sister paid me a visit and we had lots of sisterly like fun.
We were convinced these two buildings were different ones. One a church and one a castle. 'Nuff said.

We also travelled twice through three countries in just one day...just to get the airport and back. This is pretty much where the fun (and blogging) begins. The journey there to pick her up, although tiring after an early morning 10 mile run, went quite smoothly with both of us leaving our respective houses between 9 and 11am and arriving in Nancy at about the same time...PM. However we passed the time watching City of God and trying to avoid random, weird train strangers/potential stalkers.

This is how one such scene played out...

A man sits down opposite us facing the red neon sign which reads "Destination Metz"
PS (potential stalker): Excusez-moi, vous parlez francais?
Me: Oui
PS: C'est le train pour Metz?
Me: Oui, je crois (pointing (rather pointedly) at the red neon sign)
PS: Merci, pardon.

So far so not so creepy. However during the next 15 minutes we had to don our best forced smile as we were posed a range of not so impersonal questions (all followed bizarrely by "pardon/I'm sorry" and an apologetic smile).
After this babble of questions in a very French English he then swapped seats to face us and stared for a very uncomfortable, very long five minutes. To our great relief, after several expletives he ran off the train.
So aside from this unwelcome interaction we, with the help of a thermos, pasta salad, grenadine and biscuits, passed the time quite well.

The journey back however was not quite so fun...
Just to give you an idea of our timetable:
Nancy - Luxemburg 19.00 - 20.30
Luxemburg - Frankfurt 03.00-04.50
6.30... Lou's plane takes off and my return journey begins

Although, this was never going to be the most fun, we thought: Why not find a nice restaurant? Have a drink in a bar? Pass the time doing something fun until 3.00? A spot of night tourism perhaps?
I had been to Luxemburg just a week before and thought it a lovely, harmless miniature capital city. Which of course is all perfectly true EXCEPT in the immediate area surrounding the train station of course.
Did this appear during our research on the internet beforehand?
Did it mention that the entire area would be populated by men and a few scantily clad women?
And did it mention that the only bars in the vicinity would be strip clubs?
No, in fact it did not.

Well, our first backup plan of staying in the train station failed miserably when we realised the entire room was filled with not so mentally stable townsfolk. There was a man and a woman fighting and screaming...we weren't sure if they were yelling at each other or at me and Louise to skedaddle off to where we came from.
Then some confusion ensued after a woman cattily asked if another woman's bag was a bin to which she replied:

This lasted a good five minutes.

This prime example of rationality then spent the next 10 minutes trying to get everyone to certify her absolute sanity by making us all agree that she had been provoked. Of course I agreed with her. But I shall just say one word. Duress.

I tell you, in that moment we made our excuses, au revoirs and we left. And I had never been so happy to find a Mcdonalds. It shut at 1am which left us with just two hours to kill in a freezing cold deserted bus stop, jumping at every group of men who passed by, whether they spoke to us or not. Oh and then we almost missed the bus since it turned out there were two bus stops named Gare Centrale quai 1 on different sides of the station. Excellent.

So that was the end of a nice trip that had otherwise been quite uneventful.

And now to my volcanically eruptive stay in Sweden (see what I did there?). This was my first time setting foot in Scandinavia although I have always wanted to go since my Dad travels there a lot on business (though mainly to Norway) and I used to collect the Kroner coins he brought back. Although coin collecting is of course a solid basis for travel to distant lands I did in fact go to Gothenburg to visit a friend I met in Russia.

I was very excited, not just about being in a new country but about seeing Cicila and practising my extensive knowledge of Swedish (Skål för vänskap...cheers to friendship) which I had gained as a result of a tipsy beach party in Petrozavodsk. Anyway, it turns out, nobody ACTUALLY says this in Sweden which took my stock Swedish phrases down to about...erm...zero.

So there I was in the airport when I heard Easyjet announce that, due a volcano in Iceland, they had cancelled some flights to Alicante and other places located equidistant from Iceland. There I was cradling my rucksack, trying desperately to visualise a world map, thinking that maybe something wasn't quite right here, that Sweden is definitely closer to Iceland than Alicante.

However, I was actually allowed to fly to Gothenburg and it was only the day after that the entirety of Northern European airspace was closed down. But I didn't really think much about it, it was only Thursday and I had another five days before I flew back. And how much trouble could one little volcano cause anyway...?

In the meantime Cicila and I both found out that old habits die hard...old habits being: intense crisp eating (well, snacking in general), tea drinking, series watching, inane chatter, watching (and rewatching) Zoolander and just generally being silly.
We bought these crisps the first day. By the second day there were none left.

We also did a fair amount of walking (and not just to buy food) and I had a chance to see the Swedish houses, which were really cute and colourful! Gothenburg was a really nice mix of city and country.

We of course incorporated the walks with some silly antics!

We also went out dancing one night and when people tell you that Scandinavians speak English well, it is no lie! About four or five people professed to having "rubbish English" but I think they were just being modest.
(N.B. I do like to...you know...give back and am now proud to inform you that I have at least five phrases in Swedish including the oh-so-useful:
I am/You are German/English/Swedish
I am/You are NOT German/English/Swedish
as well as the oh-so-untrue:
I understand everything. )

When we were out I met lots of Cicilia's friends who seemed nice and we also met a group of Norweigians who seemed very...erm...friendly, one of whom however was very very drunk and kept trying try out his not-so-smooth moves on us. At one point tried teach me Norweigian by talking to me in Norwegian incessantly. At which point I turned to Cicila and said in Spanish (it turns out Russian would have been a better option)
...Este hombre no me gusta para nada, me molesta bastante" (basically this guy is getting on my last nerve.)

It turns out Norwegians and Swedes can communicate without swapping language aside from a few vocabulary confusions (foreplay/preparty for example) so the conversation had been in English, Norwegian and Swedish. However, I had forgotten that we were in a country of language geniuses, and as could only happen to me the man turned round and said

"¿Porqué?" Why?. Oh yes, he had worked in Barcelona for two years and had in fact understood my scathing attack on his conversation.

However, instead of getting angry he bought me a cocktail so it turns out being extremely rude to your fellow man might work out to your advantage. Though I'm not sure that's any kind of lesson to take away from my embarrassment.

I did eventually make it back to Nancy, four days later as luckily I had ended up buying two lots of return flights.

And, in these extra days we did actually manage to write our project outline for our volunteer project in the Dominican Republic this summer.

Ta ta for now!

Posted by Sianieee 09:28 Archived in Sweden Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

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