Published: May 13th 2012May 9th 2012
My day of freedom finally came on Friday when as scheduled, I went over to Colmar to see Daniele, the English teacher from school. Her holidays had been worse spent than mine and she was clearly full of bitterness, hurt and sadness, making conversation with her sometimes difficult and I found myself constantly praying for protection around myself against the negativity emanating from her. I began to think that perhaps it had been a mistake to do something with her, getting the impression that she wasn't really in the mood to enjoy herself. But God puts certain people in our path for a reason, right?
We headed off from Colmar to a small picteresque town called Riquewihr. On the way we stopped at a war memorial for the Allied Forces which acts as a great look-out point over the Alsacien countryside and all the little towns and villages dotted about at the feet of the Vosges mountains.
Once in Riquewihr, we took a look round, browsing in a few boutiques, walking along the remaining ramparts and stopping for an ice cream and drink at a small terraced cafe.
We then decided to head over to another Alsacien town called Eguisheim but by the time we arrived the heavens had opened letting down a torrent of rain. We gave up on the visit and returned to Colmar in time for me to catch the bus home.
After my Switzerland trip, the next highlight of the holiday was going to stay in Strasbourg for a couple of nights with Emilie, a girl from church, who lives just outside the city centre.
We drove over together on Sunday afternoon, in time for her to vote in the last round of the French elections. Before tea that evening Emilie offered to take me into town to show me how to catch the bus and tram, ready for when I'd make the trip alone the following day.
There was a heavy police presence in the European captial that evening and a tension permeated the atmosphere. France was waiting with bated breath to learn who her next President would be: Hollande or Sarkozy. Emilie told me that if Sarkozy got through, it was likely that there would be riots and violence because of many French people's, expecially immigrant's dislike towards him. Despite the tense and uncomfortable atmosphere, we spent a pleasant couple of hours looking round the city (it was my first time in Strasbourg and I loved the chance to explore somewhere new, far enough away from Guebwiller).
But it seemed everywhere we went, people were talking about the elections. On the tram station, we heard young boys shouting about it and I heard one woman next to us mutter 'Ca a commence' (it's started). I began to feel nervous and we later encountered another drunk group of young boys talking about it on the bus, expressing their dislike of Sarkozy in a far from discreet way.
I was glad to finally make it back to Emilie's apartment where we spent a great evening, eating our carefully prepared potatoe gratin and watching the film Valentine's Day.
The next morning Emilie headed off to work and I was left to do as I pleased. I didn't mind the fact that I'd be on my own to explore the city for a whole day - I prayed for God's protection and I knew He'd keep me safe. The elections had ended by that time as well: Hollande had passed as president and so the tense atmosphere of the evening before had vanished. I made it successfully into the city centre and then commenced my day of discovery, heading first to the cathedral.
Strasbourg is really a beautiful city, full of history and character and I liked it straightaway. The main places I managed to visit during the course of the day included the Alsacien museum, which showed a lot about the history and traditions of Alsace, La Petite France - the older part of the town, where fishing and tanning used to take place and La Place d'Etolie (a park and boutique area). On top of that, I did a LOT of walking, up and down the city's streets, along the river and around the busy commercial area. It was great and although tiring, it was enjoyable and deeply satisfying, especially as I managed it all alone WITHOUT getting lost. Even Emilie was surprised by this when I arrived home that evening, still in one piece.
One place I hadn't managed to find was the European Parliament so after enjoying a dinner of Croque Monsieurs (fried ham and cheese sandwiches), we headed back into the city together. As tired as it was, I loved just being in the city, where so much was going on and there was so much to see - it reminded me of the few trips I've made to London where I just love to soak in the city atmosphere).
As we apporached the European Parliament, Emilie pointed out its strange, 'incomplete' form as ressembling the Tower of Babylon - an interesting notion. We ventured into the courtyard of the large circular building, admiring the impressive architecture and the long array of flags outside, representing all the nations of Europe.
Emilie then showed me the other European government buildings and afterwards, we took a walk around a big park with a small outdoor display of exotic animals. I had a great time, not only because of what I saw but also because of what I heard - Emilie is such a positive and inspiring young woman and God spoke a lot to me through her which I needed and really appreciated. We laughed to each other and agreed that in many years to come, we would remember that moment.
The next day was a bank holiday and we were due to leave at 12:30 to go back to Guebwiller because Emilie had a church meeting. I decided to head back into the city centre one last time, to have a walk round and to just enjoy the city atmosphere. It was a beautiful day and well worth it.
And so my city break in Strasbourg ended, short and sweet as it was but a blessing all the same, a true blessing.