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January 13, 2013

A really fresh baguette story from Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

After our three-hour ramble up hill and down touring the three abandoned, ruined medieval castles in around-freezing fog, some of us were hungry and some were thirsty, and all chilly, so we looked for a place to eat. Problem: the time was almost 4pm. Not a meal-time in France. We stopped at an auberge with lights on. The bartender was standing outside in his apron, smoking. I asked him doubtfully whether we could eat. He wasn't scornful at all, only discouraging: he flatly stated that it was a "ville morte" (a dead town) and we weren't likely to find anything to eat, especially at this hour. He said it had been very busy at noon, but as of 3pm it had been empty, and wouldn't serve again until 6:30pm. He suggested perhaps we might find a boulangerie or somesuch back in Colmar.

 

We kept our eyes open as we headed that way, and spotted a boulangerie not two minutes down the road, still in Ribeauvillé: La Renommé, a boulangerie at 3, route de Colmar, sister to this one elsewhere in the village. The branch we chose is too small (and new) to have bothered to make a website for itself. David turned around to go back, as we had passed it in our zero-expectations for the town. I hopped out and ran in to check what they had. A very friendly redhead with a tattoo on her lower back where the baker's apron had scrunched up her shirt greeted me and assured me she could make fresh sandwiches for us on their baguette bread. There were other assorted pastries in the glass cases. The family agreed to come in for chicken or ham and cheese on fresh bread. Once inside, however, we decided on sharing around merely some warmed-up curried chicken quiche (to which our hostess happily added tasty salad), an family-sized traditional Alsatian brioche with raisins inside and almonds & powered sugar on top (called a Kugelhopf), a pain au chocolat, an éclair au chocolat, a slice of blueberry tart, an apricot juice, three hot chocolates, an espresso, and two bottles of still water. We thought that would do it.

 

There were exactly two two-seater tables, i.e. four chairs, perfect for our family. Our happy redhead quickly wiped off the two little tables for us, which were on the edge of the kitchen. Two of us were really sitting in the baker's area, and two in the store front. The right number of chairs notwithstanding, there were only one little spoon and one hot chocolate mug in the whole establishment, so the kids received their hot chocolate in bowls with large soup spoons. David lucked out in that they did have an espresso cup, but the lady couldn't find a second small spoon, so she was going to take my hot chocolate spoon and wash it for him, until I explained we'd been married for 20 years now and he wouldn't mind re-using my spoon :-) Indeed.

 

As we were delighting in the fresh fare, the baker lady went about her business and laid 20 baguette dough lengths on a special contraption that then deposited them into an enormous oven near our tables. We overheard her inform another customer that they would be coming out in 20 minutes. Light bulbs went on in our heads. We came up rather easily with the determination to stretch out our visit for another little bit, and when the loaves exited the oven, our new friend picked one up off the conveyor, dropped it into a bag, and handed it to us, all warm, fragrant, crispy and soft at the same time, and we were on our way (but not without an emergency fresh chocolate chip cookie in another little bag; you never know, the bread might not be enough). By the time we got home 2 hours later (having passed from France, through Germany, back into Switzerland), there were 2 centimetres of bread left. We forgot all about the cookie until we reached our garage.

 

Here you see the conveyor-to-oven-and-back. Ingenious. The 19 other loaves ended up in the lady's wicker baguette basket for sale for locals' dinner tables (last bread baked at 5pm daily). Ours bypassed the basket completely. And the dinner table.
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Vive la France! And thanks be to God for a wonderful overnight in Alsace; for special, unexpected treats; and for fun family memories created.

January 13, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (2)

January 12, 2013

Castle #3: Haut-Ribeaupierre (closed for safety reasons). Alsace, France

The final castle, at the top of the hill, had danger & closure signs.

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It was really very Brigadoon-ish on this foggy day:

But with some impressive moss:

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Posted via email from K's Café

January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ruined Castle #2: Château Saint-Ulrich (Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France)

Next up: Château Saint-Ulrich, just a little farther along the path. There's a legend about two brothers lived in these two castles, an arrow's shot away from each other on the same hill (for those who speak French). It has to do with hunting, arrows, crossbows, window shutters, and getting up in the morning at the wrong time.

 

Anyway, in the fog, this castle looked remarkably like the previous one, at first glance:

 

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But it was actually much bigger, with more to explore and see. Though the kids disdained the modern additions of some rough wooden stairs and metal railings for safety. They determined not to touch anything but rock/stone. The fog was particularly impressive here. We couldn't see from one side of the castle to the other. Emily was calling to us from across the way, and we asked her to wave her arms so we'd spot her location, and she replied that she was practically doing jumping jacks already. Thick fog, I tell you.

 

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Again, a very white view from the top of the tower, over the lovely valley and farmland below (I suppose):
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Emily found a nice perch:
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Jason found some ancient floor supports to conquer:
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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre, Ribeauvillé, Alsace, France

After our morning pastries in Colmar and a look around the town, we drove 20 minutes north to Ribeauvillé (I wish I knew if it is pronounced the way it looks or has some special local pronunciation-rule-bending, but I forgot to ask while we were there), because it features a hill with three ruined medieval castles: Petit-Ribeaupierre (or Giersberg or Girsbourg); Saint Ulric (or Saint Ulrich); and Haut-Ribeaupierre (which is officially closed to tourists because it's unsafe in some way, but you can apparently go in a little way without repercussions).

The day started with clear blue sky and 1 degree C (33°F). However, by the time we got to the castle village, we were in THICK fog. We parked and hiked up the hill on a muddy trail through the woods, not really sure we were heading the right direction, because there was poor signage, and we couldn't see anything for the fog. I kept thinking I saw the start of a castle, only to discover it was merely more trees or rocks emerging from the mist.

We did eventually get to the first castle, however: Le Château du Petit-Ribeaupierre: 

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The view from the castle, over the beautiful Alsatian valley & countryside:

 

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(well, not quite visible today; maybe next time)

The only way into the castle:

 

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A fun place to scramble around (though I prayed hard for safety climbing up and down (narrow ledges on a steep rock face in the fog), and was thankful for safe passage granted, by the Designer of gravity, hands, feet, and rock - thanks again).

January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Colmar, Alsace, France

Our first visit to Colmar in Alsace, northeastern France. Nice place. I would go back. So many things we skipped entirely. We did wander the charming streets a little, first night and then day, peeked in a calming medieval church from 1250AD, ate some excellent morilles (morel "not all mushrooms are created equal" mushrooms as the link says; in this case I had them with filet de sole in a fantastic sauce), enjoyed speaking & hearing French, and poked around a few interesting shops.

 

Here's the Église des Dominicaines, which is "closed in winter" - hmmm. The outside was still nice.
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Fortunately, the Collégiale Saint Martin (below) was open, and we had a few nice moments touring the inside. 

 

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In the middle of one of the roundabouts in Colmar (opposite the little airport), there is a 12-metre high replica of the Statue of Liberty, because the sculptor of the NYC statue was born in Colmar. For his 100th birthday, another sculptor erected this one:

 

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January 12, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 10, 2013

20th Edition of my Annual Christmas Stamp Collage

For the background on this project of mine that has been in progress for the 20 years we have been married, see the previous editions: 1993-1997199819992000-20022003-20042005, 20062007, 2008, 20092010, 2011.Those posts have links to close-ups of all the other years' collages. 
This year, it's the letter T, and I had so many nice stamps I had to make the crossbar rather thick. Still clearly a T. The completion of the sentence is becoming imaginable. It is amazing to look back at the first letter, J, that I made in 1993, and to think that my son Jason is now only two years younger than I was when I made that collage!!! Crazy stuff. I was 20. Wow. Thankful for experience and time passed with love, grace, mercy, health and hope. Praise be to my Maker, Sustainer, Rescuer, and Purpose-Giver.
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And the whole collage:

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January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)

20 Years Married to David and unspeakably thankful

All credit to God for bringing us this far together, and we walk forward holding our relationship as a precious gift never to be considered lightly. David and his love for me are treasures to be cherished and nourished daily. 

For our 20th Anniversary dinner, we went for the first time to Smolinsky's Sihlhalde Restaurant in Gattikon, which has a Michelin star, and is only 5 minutes from our house (somehow we overlooked it until now, as it is tucked away at the end of a dead end street between cow fields. http://www.smoly.ch/ No more to be overlooked! The perfect place to celebrate something special like this!
Complimentary appetizer: Pulpo (octopus) with a vegetable medley and fresh dill 

D: Scallops with caviar & spinach in a lemon butter sauce
K: Fresh sautéed Entenleber (duck liver or foie gras) with a balsamic reduction and wild figs 

D: Veal with polenta
K: Filet de sole in a saffron sauce with fettucine, spinach and carrots

D: Crêpes Suzette with fresh citrus slices
K: Flourless chocolate cake with garnish of passionfruit, physalis, chocolate arcs, and a tiny meringue

Complimentary final friandises: mini lemon cupcake (so cute), chocolate truffle, walnut cookie, strawberry jam sandwich cookie, and some kind of layer cake

We had lots of fun getting fancied up for this milestone occasion. 21 items held my hair together, one for each year and one to grow on...

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January 10, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0)