Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Self Diagnosis

Remember how I tripped during my run the other day and landed on my face in the street?  At the time, my bloodied hands got all the attention and I laughed at the novelty of scraping up my chest.  Well, since then my hands have mostly healed, but my chest remains a problem. 

It hurts when I breathe deeply or cough (which I do because I'm still getting over a cold).  And it really hurts when I lie down or roll over or twist the wrong way.  At first I thought I was just stiff or maybe had a bruise, so I ignored it during the past week in Paris.  But then I went to the gym yesterday morning and did an upper-body workout and have pretty much been in pain and agony ever since. 

Now, after three Google searches and a quick perusal of WebMD, I think my rib might be broken.  I have all the symptoms, and when I press on my sternum (or cough or breathe or sneeze or pick up something heavy), I can point to a very specific point on the right side of my chest where the pain originates. 

How weird. 

I do think this increases my radness factor, though.  I mean, anyone can wear yellow pants in Paris.  But yellow pants AND a broken bone?  That's something Chuck Norris would do.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Transatlantic flights have never deterred me from going to a performance I wanted to see:  Last year I saw Cosi Fan Tutti after getting off the plane in Vienna.  In 2009, I saw a Greek folk-singer perform at the Acropolis in Athens.  Today, I saw Equivocation at the Arena Stage after a 10-hour flight from Paris.

I'd never heard of the play before, but a friend of mine told me her uncle had seen the original production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival twice back in 2009 and had been raving about it ever since.  So when we learned that the same production (original cast and all) was coming to Arena Stage, we made sure to get tickets.

The uncle was right:  This play is wonderful!  The writing, directing and acting were all so well done and polished that I was thoroughly engrossed for the entire 3-hour running time (despite having just arrived from Europe).  It deals with a fictionalized Shakespeare and his troupe who have been commissioned by King James to write a play that would serve as the official version of the Gunpowder Plot.  The actual play (not the play within the play) therefore deals with fascinating and knotty questions about politics and religion, truth and lies, and the relationship of art to all of that.  The play takes its title from the doctrine of "equivocation," which Catholic priests developed in the face of persecution by the Church of England and the King.  As one of the characters put it, "equivocation" is "attempting to tell the truth in difficult times."  The instruction he gives when pressed is:  "Don't answer the question they're asking. If a dishonest man has formed the question, there will be no honest answer. Answer the question beneath the question."  In other words, it's a way to reconcile the moral imperative of honesty with the temporal interest of not getting one's head cut off.

To add to the enjoyment, the play contains so many references to the real Shakespeare and his various works that any true Shakespeare-lover will feel like a kid in a candy shop (and then will want to go home and reread the collected works to fill in all the missed references).

Arena Stage

(Btw, Amanda, in kind of too bad that you managed to catch your connecting flight -- you would LOVE this play.  The program notes mentioned that it's scheduled to go to Denver, though, so be sure to check that out.)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Homeward Bound

Well, I'm back. 

Overall, the return trip to the United States went smoothly.  There were only a few minor hiccups that would have been nice to avoid: 
  • When we got to the RER station early this morning to catch the train to the airport we discovered that none of the automatic teller machines was working (at least, not in any way that was useful to us -- no cash and no credit cards without magnetic chips), and due to construction in the station the sales counter had been moved back above ground and poorly marked.
  • After taxiing to the runway for takeoff, a technical problem was discovered, causing us to return to the terminal for repairs -- thereby adding 2 hours of in-plane waiting to a flight that was already 8 hours long.
  • I had an aisle seat in a three-seat row; my fellow travelers in the row were a young couple with a "baby" that was big enough to have had its own seat.  The baby was active and sometimes fussy, the parents not always very attentive, and the entire family very messy.  Worst of all, the mother with the baby was all the way in, next to the window, and every twenty minutes or so she would climb out over the top of me to go to the restroom or to walk around with the baby.  After the fourth time I made it clear that the arrangement was not acceptable, and so the mom and I ended up switching places so that I could sit undisturbed by the window.
Otherwise, the trip was fine and we arrived safe and sound at Dulles.  Amanda was able to catch her connecting flight to Denver despite the delay, and I had a nice drive home in unseasonably warm weather (upper 60s).

Now begins the process of unpacking, doing laundry and otherwise getting ready for a return to regular life...

very big airplane
(capacity just under 600 people)

[Also, in case you're wondering, I have a ton of catch-up to do on the last few days since my most recent post -- I'll add those pictures/posts in the next couple of days.]

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Strasbourg - Street food!

I may have been disappointed with the shops in the marchés de noel, but I was more than happy with the street food options that we found. 

The day was cold -- much colder that we'd had in Paris all week -- and we were nervous about staying warm through the day.  Turns out there was plenty of warm and tasty food (and an occasional fireplace) on hand to keep us happy.  No Michelin stars, but inexpensive and satisfying!

Strasbourg sausages, with bread and sauerkraut

We had literally just finished our sausage and sauerkraut when we came upon the raclette stand.  When Amanda told me she'd never had raclette, I announced that we would be having an emergency second lunch to remedy that travesty -- because friends don't let friends go through life not knowing about the goodness of raclette.
Raclette cheese with potatoes and cornichons
(and a fireplace!)
Raclette cheese
I'd never seen these raclette grills before --
they melt the cheese and then skim the melted
portion off onto your plate

Hot orange juice with honey
Flammkuchen with Munster cheese

Boule de neige (marshmallow covered in dark chocolate
and coconut); hot cider with cinnamon
By the end of the day we were tired of dealing with the crowds in the streets, so we ducked into a little kebab place near the cathedral and got doner kebabs and frites.

Strasbourg - Marchés de Noël

When I was in Strasbourg at Christmastime in 2000, I fell in love with its marché de noel.  Clustered in little chalet-style huts at the foot of the cathedral, you could get all sorts of wonderful crafts and decorations.  I particularly liked the Russian Santa Clauses and the German smoking Santa Clauses (at least one of which is standing on Lady's shelf right now).  Amanda, too, had fond memories of similar markets in the German towns where she lived as a child.  The primary reason for making this trip to Strasbourg was to go to the marché and do some serious Christmas shopping.

The marché is still there, but I discovered that it had grown exponentially in the last decade.  No longer limited to the cathedral neighborhood, the marché fills nearly every open space in the old city.  It makes for a wonderfully festive atmosphere, but also draws unpleasantly large crowds.  And, unfortunately, most of the best shops had been replaced by much more commercial, less artisinal shops selling kitschy items that can be found in the Christmas aisle at any large retailer.

Even so, we enjoyed the marché and the few good shops that were still there.  And yes, we did get some Christmas shopping done!

In front ofthe train station

Place du Temple neuf

In the Swiss Village
Next to the cathedral
At the foot of the cathedral

Strasbourg - Christmas in Strasbourg

Strasbourg claims to be the capital of Christmas -- and boy, does it go all out!  The city center is decked out in lights, decorations and general Christmas cheer.  It's delightful but, on the first day of the season (which is when we visited), it's also absolutely packed with people.  I haven't seen so many people since the Halloween parades in Greenwich Village in New York!  Holy cow!

My absolute favorite element of holiday décor are the chandeliers that hang over the streets.

Of course, the other lights aren't to shabby, either.

On our way back to the train station, we passed the city Christmas tree just as it was being lit.  I can safely say that this is the biggest Christmas tree I've ever seen.

Strasbourg - Promenade en ville

Strasbourg is a beautiful city.  As you can see from the architecture, it's much more Germanic in flavor.  After getting off the train, Amanda and I explored the city and soaked up the atmosphere.  It had been eleven years since the last time I was in Strasbourg, and it was wonderful to see it and recognize it again.

Place Kleber

Place Kleber, other side

Part-way through our wanderings, Amanda suddenly dived headlong into a yarn store.  It was a neat store; definitely very feminine (a pink cave basement? anyone?).  My favorite part was the amusing, tacit solidarity among the other men in the store, all of whom were clearly accompanying very enthusiastic women.

The building on the left was built in the 1570s

The plastic bubbles are an outside dining area of a restaurant...