The right place at the right time

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Throughout our travels, Sara and I have often thought about how great it would be to arrive in a new city just as some big significant event is beginning, to witness the locals celebrating something they are legitimately passionate about. Alas, this has never happened (save for an incident involving prom queens hurling watermelons at crowds and shirtless men with tridents)…until now.

As plans with our incredible Swiss cousins took shape, we realized that we were taking a very serendipitous detour. Instead of heading south to the French Riviera (where hostels and train tickets had already been scooped up by throngs of tourists), we were very nicely positioned to rent a car and hit not one but THREE events of extreme national importance.

We bid a fond farewell to Andreas, Simone, and their boys at the Basel airport, since we’d have to pick the car up in France in order to avoid border-crossing fees. Fortunately we didn’t actually have to fly anywhere:

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Our faithful steed
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After enjoying a glass of local Alsacian wine with our lovely airbnb hosts, we headed to our first stop: Germany. No particular destination, just anywhere with a screen, some Deutsch brew, and some patriotic football fans. In the town of Kehl, just across the Rhine, we found exactly what we were looking for:

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The crowd thinned a bit after halftime, when the torrential downpour started growing increasingly cold. Fortunately it left only the most hardcore fans (and us, but I suppose that makes us hardcore).

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It was pretty tearing to see the country we were IN (and had grown to love) going up against the country we’d long adopted as our second home. Ultimately I’m glad Germany won, not only because the chorus of horns honking echoed behind us the whole way back into France, but let’s face it, the winning goal was REALLY impressive.

Our second stop was an hour drive south, to the small city of Mulhouse (pronounced muh-LOOZ), where stage 10 of the Tour de France was departing. Despite the banner-waving crowds and adorable tweens running around with notepads hoping for autographs, we were able to get right up to the makeshift fence as the cyclists took their place at the starting line.

The starting line. Full disclosure, the in-town starting lines are purely for show…the cyclists will bike a few kilometres out of town, where they will legitimately start the race with a little less pomp and ceremony. If you’ve ever wondered how the race works (when most of the images we see on TV involve cyclists packed together like sardines, unable to pass each other), check it out here, it’s pretty much the most complicated thing on earth!

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Locals appreciating the scene from the comfort of their own balconies.

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The yellow jersey, the race’s most prestigious symbol, worn here by the current first place contestant, Tony Gallopin (alas, he would be forced to give it up at the end of the day!)

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The day happened to be the 14th of July, known throughout the world as Bastille Day, but in France simply as fête national. We were told that Strasbourg had some of the best fireworks around, but some less-than-accurate directions steered us the wrong way. As we finally found the right exit off the freeway, however, the sky exploded in front of us. A convenient construction barrier on the side of the exit ramp provided the perfect place to watch the celebration.

Strasbourg’s fireworks display, celebrating the victory of reason over monarchical insanity.

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The closed exit ramp was a pain to most, but it afforded an excellent view for us!

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In sum, Glückwünsch, Deutschland; bonne voyage, cyclistes; and heureuse Fête Nationale, France. Thanks for a ridiculously eventful 48 hours!

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7 responses »

  1. The blogs are coming fast and furious – how wonderful! Did G and G leave you a comment? They wanted to know if you wanted to go to Dryberry?

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    • Lol umm no, we have not seen a comment from G&G…presumably it is handwritten under one of the posts printed at the seniors centre (WHICH IS THE COOLEST THING EVER, BTW!!), but unfortunately we’re not able to see those 😛

      As for Dryberry, we would LOVE to, but unfortunately Sara starts school literally the Monday after we return. I don’t know if they’re planning any post-long-wknd trips, but we’ll definitely be in touch with them 🙂

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  2. Hello Josh! I’m a little late boarding the saratreetravels train, but I’ve enjoyed the process of catching up with your adventures immensely this summer.

    As your former English teacher, I must tell you what a joy it is to read the literate, sophisticated, intelligent, entertaining, and multi-lingual posts both you and Sara share. I am so impressed, in fact, that I am retroactively increasing your grade 12 English mark by a full five percentage points!!! In fact—what the heck—I’ll increase Sara’s mark, too! Now that you’re a fully-certified teacher, you’ll learn that, as members of the world’s most respected and valued profession, that’s the kind of power we wield. Use it wisely! And please don’t underestimate the value of this gesture (actually, you can’t; its value is literally nil, rendering anything lower a mathematical impossibility) as it is the highest form of compliment available to an emotionally-stunted man-child like myself.

    Actually, given the dubiety (dubiousness? dubiosity? dubladee? dubladah?)—both ethically and legally—of messing with your “permanent record”, I should perhaps simply state, in all seriousness, that I am very proud of you. You are doing wonderful things with your resources and learning a lot more than we could have taught you in high school. These experiences will help make you into the excellent teacher I know you will be; your students at Margaret Park are very lucky! And, Sara, although I don’t actually know you, I’m confident that you will be an excellent medical student/doctor. The adventurous spirit and empathy you’ve displayed through this blog are priceless assets that will serve you well wherever your career takes you.

    Keep those posts coming and thank you for letting us live vicariously through your meticulously-proofread adventures. Remember that, as much as you’ve been blessed by those you’ve met, you have also blessed them and those of us watching from afar. May God empower you to continue sharing His love as you travel.

    Mr J/Matt

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    • Well, for coming late to the saratreetravels train, you’ve more than made up for it with what is likely the longest comment yet. Also, Sara was particularly touched that you noticed the meticulous proofreading (we have spent more than a few train rides pondering the most dramatic use of commas, etc.).

      But seriously, you’re encouragement means a lot, and it’s always great to know that people that DIDNT change either of our diapers as babies are also reading this (not that we don’t appreciate them, or the diapers they changed back in the day!)

      I hope all is well. I look forward to exchanging teacher stories with you soon!

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    • Although I don’t actually know you either, Josh’s hilarious and complimentary stories of you have always made me wish I could get to know you better… And now your words of encouragement have confirmed that wish! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and appreciate our stories and thoughts, and thank you for being one of the wonderful influences in Josh’s life that led him to this point.

      -Sara

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  3. Pingback: Les miscellanées | saratreetravels

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