Getting into Christmas mood (à l’alsacien)

Strasbourg

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s time to relax, look back on the past year and anticipate what the next year might bring. I’m not a total Christmas nut, for me Christmas spirit comes from putting on the Christmas lights in the window and burning a lot of candles and listening to Christmas music – preferably Sinatra. I’ve been sick with a flu lately so I had a good reason to be buried on my couch with a hot drink in one hand and a remote control in the other, watching the 6th season of Downton Abbey. This must be one of the best Christmas series ever. I have to also confess that we started watching the new Netflix series The Crown, and it is as good as I was expecting, I strongly recommend.

Luckily last weekend I was still up on my two feet as we headed to Strasbourg, the ultimate Christmas capital, for a weekend. The city was crowded as you can imagine, but it is definitely worth going to see the charming old city  and the amazing Christmas decorations. The Christmas market itself was a little bit of a disappointment or maybe I just had bad luck, but after waiting for my galettes de pomme de terre for more than 20 minutes, having them served cold, then asking to reheat them just to find out that they are not fresh at all, I was pretty bummed. Luckily vin chaud can never disappoint you, so stick to that! More positive experience was the Portuguese market and the OFF market, they seemed to have more fresh stuff. If you decide to go, do make a reservation for a restaurant in the evening, especially if you want to eat something local around 7 – 9 pm all the places are full. We ended up eating pizza in an Italian restaurant, luckily it was delicious, but not very alsacien… In the evening we also did a little cruise on the river, it was very nice actually as you get to hear about the history of the city and see the main places along the river.

You can pretty much see Strasbourg in one day, so on Sunday we continued our road trip to Baden Baden in Germany to visit the Caracalla baths and spent 3 hours in different pools and saunas. Wonderful experience with both outdoor and indoor pools and saunas, all this for 19 euros, totally worth a little detour on the way back to city. Driving back to Paris is a bit long (big thanks to our chauffeur!) but it is worth it.

Strasbourg, I will definitely come back. Maybe in the summer for some wine tasting… But next destination will be Finland, Yay! Can’t wait to breath some fresh air after all the pollution in Paris in the past days and weeks. I keep my fingers crossed to see some snow up North.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

Strasbourg

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Things I miss from Finland

Sunset in Ruka Finland in early December

I have always been adapting easily to any environment and I do take pride in not being the home sick type. I was 18 years old when I left to work in France in a hotel in Roissy near Charles de Gaulle airport for 6 months. I was young and clueless, but even then it was easier for me to move to France than to come back home. After having spent one semester as an exchange student in Montréal and having a lot of fun I remember feeling a bit blue the whole summer when it was over. Not to mention leaving Tunisia after more than a year, having the time of my life and then settling back to Finland, leaving also the love of my life there.

However after 3 year and a 3 months exactly in France, there are plenty of things that I miss from Finland. I adapted to Paris quite easily but at times I do get home sick. Everyday life here can be quite frustrating at times (as in any big city ?) and more and more I do see the good side of good old Finland. I of course miss the family and friends the most, but besides of that, there are plenty of other things I long for…

Food and drinks. I guess you always miss the food from home. Finland is not very known for its cuisine, but after overdosing the first years in France on baguettes, cheese and red wine, I’m done. I miss the Finnish selection of different rye and wholegrain breads and of course the famous Karelian pies . Actually nowadays a baguette makes me see red. I miss the Edam cheese from Arla (Finns, you know what I mean). Sometimes I even dream of Prisma hypermarket. And I definitely miss Alko. The wines are delicious and mostly cheap in France, but I miss the selection of world wines. Ok ok, actually I just miss the tags with description of the wine and recommendations for food to accompany it, so easy! Have you ever opened a bottle of white wine after a hard day at work and had to spit it out as it was a sweet wine? Well I have and that is utterly disappointing. It will never happen if you buy wine from Alko. From non-alcoholic drinks I do miss normal fat-free milk. A cold glass of milk after a workout, with a meal, or even when you are hangover. Won’t happen in France with that UHT milk. Damn you.

Nature. While I was living in Espoo 20 minutes bus ride away from Helsinki city center, I went to cross country skiing in the winter time straight from my front door on the best days. In worst case I walked 300 metres with the skis on my shoulder and then I was in the forest, famous Espoo central park. Such a joy. One winter I skied until early April as it was so cold (what happened ever since – climate change?). But what I miss the most is definitely the sea. Baltic sea may not be the friendliest of the seas, but it is awesome to live by it. Nothing but a fresh sea breeze to make you feel better. And if the “city” life is too much, you just escape to family cottage by the lake which is literally in the Middle of Nowhere. Oh yes, we like nature and we don’t like neighbors.

Organization and honesty. In Finland you can pretty much rely on what people say. In France you need to be ready to fight for everything. People will tell you with a straight face that something is your fault, when it isn’t. Of course there are difficult people also in Finland, but at least you can trust authorities. If you go to a public office, you can pretty much get the things done without a hassle, your papers won’t get lost (oopsie!). Before I moved to France I had never sent a registered letter, as we trust people in public offices. Actually I didn’t even send letters since you can do everything online or over the phone. In Finland you get pretty much through any major changes in your life (changing a flat, a job, being sick), without having to print a wheelbarrow full of papers, having a check book, sending a lettre recommendée

These are the first things that come in my mind when I think what I miss from Finland. And these are things I certainly took for granted when living in Finland. Of course we have also one of the best education and healthcare system in the world, but enough bragging for now. Maybe, probably, all of this will be boringly safe and dull if I move back one day, but now let me light two candles for the Finnish Independence Day and feel le mal du pays. 

Parisian Winter Day

View from Montmartre

Lately it has truly felt like winter in Paris, we’ve had sunny and cold days, even a few minus degrees during the night and early morning. This is the Parisian winter I like! Today we wondered to Montmartre for an afternoon stroll, it is  one of my favorite places in Paris before Christmas to have a cup of vin chaud or hot chocolate. Despite all the tourists it is worth it, just to see the amazing view over the city. There is also a Christmas market close to Sacre Coeur church that has an oyster and wine bar. Classy eats for charity! We didn’t have oysters this time (well I never eat them actually, I can’t stand the idea of something living in my throat), but instead we opted for hot chocolate in lively Rue Abbesses. If you want to combine strolling with shopping, the shops are open on Sundays in this area.

AbbessesStreet in MontmartreTourist stuff in MontmartreSacre CoeurView over ParisPlace de TertreHot chocolate

Too bad that next week it’s getting warm again.. I prefer this kind of wintery days!