Category Archives: everything else

Two reviews from our road trip to Beaune

Building in the center of town, Beaune
The center of town

Last month we went on a road trip through France, and out first stop was Beaune. This makes for a perfect trip since it’s an easy 4 hour drive from Zurich. Besides enjoying a lovely walk around the city walls, each day we had a few glasses of wine, tried a new restaurant, and then headed back to our hotel satisfied and happy. Two places stood out enough that I’d happily recommend them. (Click on the headings to go to listings on Trip Advisor).

Hotel Alesia

We stayed here once a few years ago when they had two stars, and we really liked it then: friendly, clean, and a good-quality generous breakfast. Their location outside the city is really easy to get to by car, and it’s not too long a walk into the center of town. Now they have three stars and the decor has been nicely upgraded, free WiFi is available, and the price doesn’t seem to have gone up at all. Handy tip: there’s an Aldi right nearby (you can see it from the hotel), which is a great place to stock up on bargain-priced provisions before you drive off to your next destination.

La Part des Anges

We arrived in Beaune planning to eat at two restaurants chosen from Trip Advisor reviews (La Ciboulette and L’incontournable), but being August, they were closed for summer holiday. Oops. On to plan B: wander around and choose by the old-fashioned educated guess. We liked the look of La Part des Anges, so even though the kitchen was closed, simple dishes were still available and we had a plate of smoked salmon, then a cheese platter, both accompanied by a couple different wines by the glass. Everything was perfect, delicious and lovely. We sat outside watching the world go by, taking our time, getting a little tipsy but not drunk, enveloped in that magical feeling of everything being just right. I saw from some reviews on Trip Advisor that it doesn’t always go that way here. But our experience was so nice that my recommendation is definitely give this place a try. Have a glass of wine. See how things go. If you’re not having a good time, move on. But if everything seems good, stay and enjoy la part des anges.

Beaune city wall
Beaune city wall

Einkaufen Laufen

It’s so nice to be able to do all my shopping on foot. Since every time I go grocery shopping I buy only as much as I can carry, I usually need to go every couple of days. This has several pleasant benefits. One: I can keep us stocked up on fresh bread, fruit and vegetables all the time. And two: I’ve invented a new exercise which I call einkaufen laufen, meaning shopping hiking (if you like made-up phrases in German).
My groceries usually weigh about 12 kilograms (a little over 26 pounds) and I carry them in bags rather than using a granny cart. Plus we live on a hill, so it’s a nice bit of exercise. I don’t know if einkaufen laufen can take all the credit, but I am in better shape now that I’ve been living here over a year.

Bags of groceries
My two bags of groceries

Bookworm that I am, I really liked Moby Dick

Moby-Dick or, The WhaleMoby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked it. In the beginning when I was getting to know the characters they seemed a lot more modern than I was expecting. I guess human nature hasn’t really changed all that much in 160 years, and a good writer can capture the timeless truth about people. The story becomes more and more fantastic and the writing more stylized as the book goes on, until it’s very Shakespearean: filled with symbolism, grand drama and tragedy at the end.

Melville inserts a lot of explanation about whaling in between the progress of the story. They’re necessary to understand the plot and mostly very interesting, but sometimes they get a little dull. That was the only thing I didn’t enjoy.

But other than that, I was really happy to read it. I also liked recognizing a passage Stephen Fry quoted on QI! “Ere long, it is taken down; when removing some three feet of it, towards the pointed extremity, and then cutting two slits for armholes at the other end, he lengthwise slips himself bodily into it. The mincer now stands before you invested in the full canonicals of his calling.”

View all my reviews

Ugly Mug

Well, maybe not ugly. But this mug is definitely a little funny-looking.

beer mug
Very 70s ceramic made to look like wood. The little hoops around the barrel are real metal!

I found some great old kitchen things when I unpacked some of Alan’s mystery boxes, but something tells me this is not a valuable antique Bierstein.

Fussball Fun

I’m enjoying my first World Cup here. I played soccer when I was a kid and enjoy watching sports, so I’m able to follow along quite nicely. As an added bonus, since we’re watching broadcasts in German I’m also practicing language comprehension. Based on the number of times I’ve heard the phrase, many plays in football are ganz gefährlich (totally dangerous).

Yesterday we went to a pub to watch the second USA game, which was a lot of fun, despite the US being robbed of the winning goal.

Nelson Pub
The best cure for football fever is a cool beverage.

We have a chart on our fridge and I’ve been keeping track of how each team is doing. I’ve figured out the point system that determines how teams advance to the next round, and have a Google Gadget that lists games, scores, and standings.

More football-related German lessons.

Besides supporting the US, I’m also a fan of Switzerland who have already beaten Spain in a big upset. It’s also fun to cheer for a team based on quirky and random reasons. Spencer Hall’s World Cup Likability Rankings helps you choose a team based on adorable nicknames, interesting hairstyles, and colorful or possibly insane star players. For example, in the match-up between Cameroon and Denmark, Cameroon has the awesome nickname of The Indomitable Lions, while Denmark has fans who are “roligans, the anti-hooligans of Europe and generally beloved among soccer fans”.

It’s lucky that I speak English.

I’m planning to take another German class this summer, and a good thing too. I’ve been studying on my own, and while I’ve made progress with reading and vocabulary, I still barely understand German when spoken to me. Of course this isn’t surprising, since I can read slowly, look up words, and re-read things to my heart’s content; while in conversation I have to interpret sounds that exist only for a split-second. Frustrating!

So I was happy to be reminded that while my German skills are still pretty lame, it’s lucky that I speak English. English has become the language of global connection thanks to British colonization, Hollywood blockbusters, American tech corporations, and the internet. I’ve just been reading a wonderful excerpt of the book Globish by Robert McCrum in the Guardian, which mentions that

The Sunday Times commented that “to be born an English-speaker is to win one of the top prizes in life’s lottery. And this can be said without a hint of triumphalism, sexism, or racism, without annoying anybody much except the French.”

Lucky me!

However, Globish not just an amusing title for a book about global English, but the word for a simplified version of English used as a common language around the world.  There are varieties of English like Konglish (English in South Korea) and Manglish (Malay and English), and universal internet words like “pwned”.  But people with no common mother tongue are increasingly using Globish to understand each other, and the term is becoming more recognized. The viral nature of the worldwide adoption of English is interesting and McCrum makes it fascinating in Globish.