Monday, January 11, 2010

The snow has been falling regularly in Strasbourg for about a week now and although this is not big news to the Strasbourgeois, as this isn't too far above normal. It is, however, quite big news for much of the rest of France and for me. I have never seen this much continuous snow in my life, and it is delightful despite the bitter cold. ça caille! is perhaps the most apt expression to use in French - it's freezing! So venturing outside becomes an adventure, bundling up and walking quickly. I am for the first time in my life reluctant to leave the house without a hat, scarf, and gloves. Until a week ago I didn't even own a scarf. It's good though, it means that every time I leave the apartment I take my camera with me. It is quite exciting to having my real digital SLR in France, when I was here for the semester last Spring I had only my small pocket digital camera. I am always a bit wary of using my camera when abroad for fear of seeming even more touriste than I already do, but Strasbourg is a city that just cries out to be photographed.
Life in Strasbourg is great. Although it was truly special to live with a host family last Spring it is a truly different and wonderous experience to have an even more independent life here. The city truly does have so much to offer. Simply going for walks downtown is a heartwarming experience. Coline lives, charmingly, just across a place from an elementary school. This means that in addition to hearing the somber daily bells of the cathedral and other churches around us we also hear the cheerful tones played by the school's loudspeaker which calls the students to class, recess, and lunch. It makes for a wonderful contrast. It made me smile the other day when I happened to step out of the building during recess, and all the kids were out in the place throwing snowballs. Too cute for words.
It is also now officially les Soldes, sale time in France. This happens every year at the beginning of January, one of the only times in France that anything ever goes on sale. Needless to say, it's a big deal. For an American with the unfavorable conversion rate this doesn't change much ... it means I feel like I'm selling my arm for one thing and my leg for another, not both for the same thing. Quite comforting. However that's how things go in the Euro zone, and I'm looking for a good pair of jeans for 20 euro. I'll need all the luck I can get.
The Cathedral keeps making surprise appearances from all around Strasbourg. It's quitea unique experience coming from the United States to be always in the presence of something that old and magnificent. Even in the most spectacular modern cities the skyline seems not to be so spectacular. Part of the magnificence of the Cathedral is, indeed, its monopoly over the sky. There simply is nothing around it that approaches its height. According to my good friend Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strasbourg_Cathedral), it was the tallest building in the world between 1647 and 1874. Imagine that. So what happens all lot when you're in Strasbourg is you turn around and the Cathedral is there. Or you look up and there it is. It's the kind of thing you get used to after a while, but I haven't hit that while yet.
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