USO Soufflenheim

Last week little outing in France was to Haguenau and Soufflenheim. Soufflenheim is a very cute little village. You will find pottery and their store all over town. If one wants to buy pottery, one will find it here. Tones of different color, pattern, texture.
Here is a little history about the town.

The Emperor Barbarossa granted Soufflenheim’s potters the right to extract their clay from the Hagenau forest, a right that persists to this day. In 1837 Soufflenheim still had 55 Pottery Businesses, which employed about 600 people. In 2006 there was only a third of those left.
The Pottery Artist make lots of “Useful” pottery made for Traditional Alsacien meal (Riesling Roster, Baeckeoffe (means “baker’s oven.” It is a mix of sliced potatoes, sliced onions, cubed lamb, beef and pork which have been marinated overnight in Alsatian white wine and juniper berries and slow cooked in a sealed ceramic casserole dish. Leeks, thyme, parsley, garlic, carrots and marjoram are other commonly added ingredients for flavor and color. Traditionally, the women would prepare this dish on Saturday evening and leave it with the baker to cook in his gradually cooling oven on Sunday while they attended the lengthy Calvinist church services once typical to the culture.

The baker would take a “rope” of dough and line the rim of a large, heavy ceramic casserole, then place the lid upon it for an extremely tight seal. This kept the moisture in the container. On the way back from church, the women would pick up their casserole and a loaf of bread. This provided a meal to the Alsatians that respected the strict Calvinist rules of the Sabbath. Part of the ritual is breaking the crust formed by the rope of dough.), Kougelhopf (Gugelhupf consists of a soft yeast dough which contains raisins, almonds and Kirschwasser cherry brandy)

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Spring & Schwetzingen Castle Garden

How I LOVE Spring! This is MY favorite season, I love the fact that you can just wait a few hours and get sunshine, or rain, or wind or whatever you wish for. It doesn’t take MONTHS like in winter or summer; I love the “Inter”-seasons: Spring and fall. Love it SO much, it makes my trigger finger happy!!
One day we drove next to the Schwetzingen castle, if you haven’t read it before here is a link to a previous post: Anne’s Blog: Schwetzingen Castle Garden Visit and we saw that the “Cherry trees” were in bloom (or at least I think it is cherry) LOL!

So one sunny day, I took my camera, my HTF (Happy Trigger Finger) and car to Schwetzingen. OK it was kinda hard to find a parking spot, I should have gone with my bike, but I had to pack for our trip to my mother for Spring break, so I went and took the shortcut of my car (which wasn’t that short at the end), anyway, here are a few pictures of what I saw. Hope you enjoy them!

Keukenhof, Netherland USO Trip

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At the end of the month of April, I was asked to escort a USO trip to the Keukenhof garden and Tulip Parade. When I went to pick up my package, my boss even told me that I could bring a friend!! OH BOY!! Whoohoo!! So I asked my new BFF C. to come along with me. And off we went.
It was (I will tell you the truth) a LONG trip. About 7 hours + bus ride. Welkom Keukenhof is located near the North Sea on the North Western part of the Netherlands.
Keukenhof mean “Kitchen Herb”, in the 15th Century it was part of the Hunting Park of the castle of Jacoba Van Beieren. Then after her death it was acquired by a Baron who hired an Architect to design a huge “English landscape Garden”, it is still the same now. However it was also use for the longest time to show off the bulbs of the Dutch Market and became popular because of that.

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It is now a beautiful garden that opens only for the “bulb/tulip” season and every year the landscape architect design over 100 new designs to plant. The gardeners of the estates will take out all the bulbs that are planted out, and will replant them following the new design. So no matter if you went last year, it will be a new garden next year and the year after.
During the morning we drove to Noordwijk for the “Bloemencorso Bollenstreek” it started in this little town Noordwijk, Netherlands – Google Maps next to the north sea, it was packed. Buses parked everywhere. Just amazing!! Something that we laughed about was the fact that they had lots of people on bicycle, and that you betta watch out, cause they will ring their little bell and ride on you if you are not quick enough to get out of the way. I just love the Dutch language, it is what I will call a mixture of German, English and Flemish (Which I am not sure what mix of language Flemish is) so it is very hard to understand if you never studied it. I mean, I am French and I can understand a few words of Italian or Spanish, but send me to Germany or Netherlands, and I am just LOST! LOL!

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OK back to the topic. If you have the chance to be in Amsterdam during the month of April… Go visit Keukenhof, it was just amazing. I was disappointed of only ONE thing. The fact that my camera couldn’t catch the smell of all those flowers in that garden. just unbelievable.
Here as always, pictures that I took. Hope you enjoy them.

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USO Paris Express

This past weekend was the 8th of May and I had a Paris Express tour with the USO to escort. For the French the 8th of May is a holiday and commemorate the end of World War II. So as we normally do in our guided bus ride in Paris, The Champs Elysees were OFF limits because of preparation for the Parade and passing of our “dear” president Mr. Sarkozy.It was PACKED with Security, Police people all over! I think it was the first time I saw so many policemen/women in Paris. I once went to the 14th of July parade and they had security, but not Police. The CRS were out and military people. So… It was something new… Maybe this is the changes that happen under Sarko. 😉 Paris France – Google Maps

Anywhooo

I was really wanted to go and visit the temporary exhibition on Holy Russia Holy Russia exhibition at the Musée du Louvre and it had been a LONG time that I didn’t visit any museum in Paris, so I thought… why not. We did the Louvre Museum for a bit, so we cruised by the exhibition on Holly Russia (sorry I know, cruising isn’t appropriate for such gorgeous art effect. BUT, the gallery was PACKED and we couldn’t even see any of the information’s panels, we could admire the object/books/icons from 2 yard away, but so many people in between that I got sick of waiting for my turn to read everything and translate for Morgane. So I bought the book on the exhibition instead! LOL! After coming out of the gallery, I asked Morgane if she had ever seen the “Mona Lisa” she told me she saw it on pictures. So we headed toward her.

Now for those of you who are fortunate enough to have gone to the Louvre, you might help me here: “HOW on Earth can you even find your way around?” I had the map, I followed the map, and I totally got lost (not that I have to complain since you discover painting/statues or something else that will just amaze you) BUT my feet hurt, I was already walking for the past 2 hours and then got lost in the galleries! WTH?? LOL. AND I had a daughter who was saying EVERY other minutes how tired she was… Oh I would want to see how she handled being left in the Louvre with my mother. AH!! That would be hilarious!
There was also another temporary exhibition on the teaching of Tao Exhibition “Tao, Another Way of Being” : Galeries nationales, Grand Palais, (en) in Paris [Rmn] that I was wanted to see, but after 2 ½ hours in the Louvre and STARVING, we decided to skip it. (I really wanted to go see it, but with Morgane, I wasn’t sure I could handle it. Beside it is still going to be open until the beginning of July and I will go back twice in Paris in between and hopefully I will have time to go visit it)

We found a little Pizzeria (morgane didn’t like the other choice: “Sushi”) and rested our feet for a short hour. Then, I told her we could go to the “Galleries Lafayette”, she asked what it was and I said, well, I think it is some kind of Mall with tones of different stores. (I will turn 40 soon enough and I (frenchie) don’t even know exactly what is inside the “Galleries Lafayette”. Does it seem WEIRD to you??) Well, when I stepped in the “mall” I understood why I never went there! LOL! OMG!! Are you kidding me?? Who can afford ANYTHING in the Galleries?? I saw the CUTEST rings from a French designer. Over 70000 EURO!! Yes you read it right, 70 THOUSAND! WTH, really if you can afford a ring that cost that much, then I hope that you are giving back to your community or world organization that need help!

Anyway, needless to say that I felt under dress and like I didn’t belong. LOL they do have GORGEOUS thing there though. LOL!! However even if you can or cannot afford to shop in this store, go check it out. The building is just amazing, it has a Art deco décor with stained glass ceiling. (see the picture) AND you can take your McDonald to the Top floor and eat your Hamburger admiring a view of Paris that you can’t see anywhere else. LOL
As usual here are some of my pics, hope you enjoy them.
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USO Paris July

This visit to Paris was going to be one of my latest visit with the USO tour. So… I did something that I have always wanted to do.

Just cruise.

I enjoyed just checking out Shop windows. Street Vendors, etc…

This one was kind of cool. A Tableware shop diplaying a new Plate design (of Paris monuments) and showing it like you were looking at it from above, but it was in a window (wonder if they used super glue?)

Laduree Store. It is a place where you can go and eat some sweets. The “Macarons” are one of their creation that they are well known for. But apparently it must be pretty good! Look at the line!

Walking around Paris, you can find lots of street performance like this guy. I thought it was kinda cool the way that he stand all day long on the column and be!

This was taken on the “Champs Elysees” not too far from the American Embassy. Did you know that you can’t take picture of the Embassy? I was surprised and disapointed, It is such a pretty building, and to be in Paris and seeing the Stars Flowing next to a very old building. Make me want to shoot it. However, I was stopped by a Police officer (yes French) who made sure that I didn’t have ANY pictures of the building! Bummer!!! What a party pooper!!

I also went, and that was the place I have been looking to go visit for a while. On the outskirt of Paris, in St. Denis. To go visit the Basilica of Saint Denis (funny because the French call it the “Cathedrale Royale de Saint Denis”)
This is the place where most of the French Kings are buried. Nearly every King from the 10th to the 18th Centuries are there.(All but 3 kings are now buried here) Also most Queen were crowned there (King were in Reims)

 

 

 

 

 

The last King of France: Louis the XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, his 2 daughters and his sister are buried here since 1806 (Time of Napoleon’s exile and the “restored Bourbons” reigns.) The heart of the Dauphin de France (son of Louis XVI) is also there.

USO Chateau du Haut Koenigsbourg, France

I did a lot of Travel in May of this year, France, Italy, Belgium, France again… It was fun but very every weekend travelling can be a case of being tired for a while for me. I guess I am not 17 or 18 anymore!! LOL

 

We went to the “Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg : visite de château en Alsace, tourisme en Alsace” in Alsace with the USO. My husband followed with some friends that were visiting from the States. We were lucky to have a beautiful spring day and no rain while visiting. (Gotta love that)

Me and my husband make fun of this place because the German renovated this castle in between 1900 to 1908 (when that region of “France” was German) so the German government pay for the renovation and then first world war happen, and as we know, German lost, France took back that part lost in 1870 and now it is listed in the “French National Monument” (like they had anything to do on the construction/renovation of that castle) But hey I am French I should be proud of all the cool Monument that we take over those surrounding country that don’t deserve it!! Yeah!!! (sight!!)

Anyway, here are some more pictures from the castle. Oh, BTW, if you ever want to go visit. The best time is fall, as you can see in my previous post: Anne’s Blog: Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. Alsace, France The colors are just amazing. I want to try to go there when there is snow on the ground so see if it is as beautiful, but not sure the drive there will be safe enough as it is located on top of a very small mountain/cliff top. And the road doesn’t seem like it is even cleared up in winter! We shall see!

Our first visit to Prague

Just a little note to join with my pictures of Prague, It was amazing.

 

 

 

 

We left Heidelberg on the USO bus at 2.30am (yeah you read it right) then we hit a “Stau” (traffic jam) around 3.30 some dude fell asleep on the wheel and hit a US military convoy. No-one got hurt but we did get stuck (really really STUCK, as of not moving 1 inch) for over 3 hours. We finally started moving around again at 7am. NICE!!
We still had 6 hours bus ride, so we didn’t arrive until 1pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were suppose to have a tour of the city with a guide, well since we lost so much time on the bus, we had a 2 hours tour.

After following for about 30mn, it was clear that the guide was in a hurry to show as many things as possible and that we weren’t going to be able to stop and take pictures. At one point, we were following the group (a little behind, but still seeing them) and suddenly they all disappeared.

 

 

So Matt and I thought, hmmm to we want to run to find them, or just get lost! We chose to get lost, took our time to go around and I took my pictures.

It was a very nice spring day, we did have some cloud and some sun shine and some rain, but… what a gorgeous city to get lost in!

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of Easter Market all over town. So cool!!

 

A MUST see, a MUST come back and we WILL for sure, and hopefully I will be able to give you a little more info, since I didn’t do much research about the place before we went there. 😉

USO Haguenau

 

Last Friday I went on a tour to the Haguenau and Soufflenheim cities. It was my first trip to the area so I did a bit of searching to find some historic information that might be of interest of people. Of course I took TONES of pictures (what else is new) and for those of you who are a little interested about this 2 cities, here are a little of what I found (believe me, I cut it to a little, cause… I guess it was boring, nobody really listens to what I was saying! LOL!)

 

The Alsatian region of France, like neighboring Lorraine changed ownership between German and France. Alsace finally became part of France in 1918 at the end of WWI. The influence of both German and French cultural traditions is evident today. Locals, most of whom address you in French, can also respond in German. The Alsacian German is the second most spoken minority in France.

 

 

Haguenau is at the edge of an immense 14000 hectare forest that was the favored location for middle ages imperial hunts. Founded in the 12th Century around the Hohenstaufen castle built by Duke Frederick the One-Eyed and owed its property in the Middle-Ages to the emperors Frederick Barbarossa and Frederick II who made it one of their residences and who granted the town important rights (Town privileges or city rights were important features of European towns during most of the second millennium. Judicially, a town was distinguished from the surrounding land by means of a charter from the ruling monarch that defined its privileges and laws. Common privileges were related to trading (to have a market, to store goods, etc.) and the establishment of guilds. Some of these privileges were permanent and could imply that the town obtained the right to be called a city, hence the term city rights (stadtrecht in German).

Some degree of self-government, representation in a diet, and tax-relief could also be granted.) Haguenau was the second most important Alsatian city, after Strasbourg. Medieval Haguenau retains three gates from its former fortification, the Tour des Chevaliers (Tower of the knights), the Tour des Pêcheurs (Tower of the fishermen) and the Porte de Wissembourg (Wissembourg gate), two fairly large gothic churches, Saint-Georges and Saint-Nicolas, an ancient water-mill and the old custom-house (Ancienne Douane)

The 17th Century was a dark period for the town, with a number of invasions and occupations, In the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 was ceded to France, and in 1673 King Louis XIV had the fortifications razed. Haguenau was captured by imperial troops in 1675, but it was taken by the French two years later, nearly being destroyed by fire in the process 1677. The town was rebuilt in the 18h Century: it is one of the town of Alsace with the greatest number of 18th Century buildings.

Occupied by the Germans in 1940, it was liberated in March 1945 after suffering great destruction.

Jewish History:

Jews settled there soon after it received its charter as a city (1164), and a synagogue was established in 1252. Until the middle of the sixteenth century the Jews lived peaceably among their fellow citizens. The towns-people, impoverished by the protracted civil war, in their turn plundered the Jews, subjected them to every imaginable persecution, and finally banished them (1346). Soon readmitted on condition that they paid the debts of the city.

During the second half of the sixteenth and the first half of the seventeenth century the condition of the community remained unchanged. Only six families, which had settled at Hagenau in the twelfth century, were allowed to have a permanent residence there; and it was only on a heavy monetary payment that a newcomer was allowed to take the place of a deceased head of one of these families.

In 1720 it issued the following regulations, which remained in force until the French Revolution: “The Jews who are at present living in the city may remain. Only one married son in each family has the right to settle in the city; the other children, both male and female, must on marriage leave it, except when they live in common households with their parents. Grandsons acquire this right of residence only on the death of their grandfather.” The Jews of Hagenau were, moreover, restricted in their commercial activity to dealing in horses, cattle, and old clothes, and to the lending of money on interest; and they were closely watched by the Christian merchants.

For our little excursion Matt joined me, and we walked around this cute city. We went to the church and visited, then to the Market square (Les Halles) where people sell their fairs, lots of shopping was done and I found a cute little display of Handmade Soap and lots of nice spices. We hate a “Spring Roll” from a Chinese vendor (which is my favorite thing to eat when I am at a French market) and after a failed attempt to eat at a local restaurant (cause we didn’t have time, or the patience with the French waiter, who was very “Frenchly” rude) I had a sandwich and went to get a dessert at the chocolaterie yummy!!!