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France and Luxembourg

See the shadow in the background? 
Before I left for Germany, one of my friends told me, "You gotta go to France."

I'm afraid that as much as I pretend, I'm not actually always that adventurous. Deep down I want to go to every country. But, also, I have this thing where I want to only focus on one big thing at a time. Going to Germany was enough. France? Eh. Not this time.

It's not really that big of a deal to go to other countries in Europe. It's like crossing state borders—I was told Europe doesn't have border control, except through airports. I didn't even need to show my passport when going to Switzerland which is not a part of European Union.
My view of France outside my hotel room
Well, it turns out I went to France after all.
With my Au Pair parents and their youngest son.

I didn't even know we were going until maybe two days before. And I thought we were only going for a weekend, but the day before I found out we'd be gone five days.

"Was it awkward going on vacation with people you hardly know for almost a week?"
No. Everyone is pretty laid back, and yeah we don't always know what's going to happen (or maybe I should say I don't know). But that just adds a bit of excitement. After all, I came to be with their family and learn along the way.

It was a nine-hour drive to Paris, our central destination.
So, the first day we drove half the distance to Strasbourg. The plan was to go to a Christmas market.
We parked. We walked, following a phone GPS. I found some coins and lamented over the fact that they were German coins and not France coins (and then later laughed at myself as I realized Euros aren't strictly German coins and that they are used in much of Europe). We somehow got lost. Thankfully, the father's baby could speak French, and he saw a hotel chauffeur and asked him for directions. We were far away from where we wanted to be. The man offered us a ride, and took us there—for free! Though my Au Pair parents paid him anyway.

Even after that, we didn't make it to the Christmas market. We missed the tour we were supposed to go with, by like ten minutes. And we were tired and hungry anyways. So we went back to the car and drove to the hotel and then went to a really nice little French restaurant—I had Spaetzle with mushrooms and calf, and then a chocolate mousse for dessert.
The next morning we had breakfast at a bakery, walked around Strasbourg and "shopped" a little at the street vendors. We also attended a French Catholic service. 

I actually thought we were going in to just see the church, otherwise, I may have not taken photos. With all the holidays and such, I had forgotten it was even Sunday. 

I enjoyed the service very much. I understood absolutely nothing, which made me realize just how much German I am understanding. Besides the language and the church being larger and slightly more decorated, it didn't feel all that different from the church I normally attend with my Au Pair family. 


This was in the hotel we stayed at in Strasbourg. I thought it was the cutest Santa I've ever seen. 

After the service, we checked out of our hotel and drove to Paris. We had quite a few times of long driving time. I spent a lot of time beta reading, embroidering, and sleeping. Also, I enjoyed watching the scenery.

We usually stopped after driving two or three hours to feed the babies and maybe get a bite to eat ourselves (soup, salad, or such). We'd pull over at a rest stop which usually had this huge building that included a gas station, restrooms, gift store, and restaurant. I think what shocked me most about these areas is that they charged fifty to seventy cents to use the restroom. If you were eating at the restaurant you could usually get your money refunded.

Oh, remember how I said how I liked how private and clean German bathrooms are? Well, French bathrooms are still private—mostly, except a couple where both men and women could enter and the urinal had no wall from the women's area—and they were far from clean. I think even American Walmarts have cleaner bathrooms than most French stalls.

We arrived in the evening, then went out to eat again at another nice restaurant. This time I had partridge with potatoes—something I'd always wanted to try!—and for dessert, I had ginger ice cream. The Patridge was yummy, by the way.

The next day we got on a hop-on/ hop-off tour Paris tour bus called Big Bus. It took us around Paris and showed us all the sights. They gave us earphones to plug in the wall and listen to a recorded tour in our language—there were about ten languages to choose from.

And when we wanted, we could get off at one of the stops and see more, then return a little while later when the bus returned. We stopped at Notre Dame and saw as much of it as we could from the outside and also ate crepes flavored with a Maroni sauce.
Then we stopped at the Champs-Elysées street and walked down it, stopping for a lunch at a diner, and then later for some hot chestnuts. My Au-Pair mother laughed to me that "it was easy to tell which tourists were Americans. But none of them are like you."

I laughed, then asked what she meant.

"They are liked Barbies. You can't see their face because of their makeup, and their eyes are funny colors and they all wear so much lipstick."

I had some very interesting thoughts while on that street that I shared on Facebook and will share here, too:
"Yesterday, while walking down the Champs-Elysées street in Paris, I had two predominate thoughts.

'It's so sad that where people used to have homes are now stores. The street is beautiful ... except for the trash brought by tourism and the contrast of commercialism. What would the original homeowners think of this now' 
'Someday, when I have money to waste, I'll come back here to clothing shop.' 

At the time I didn't even realize the irony of my thoughts until I considered them further through the day through another incident. I overheard other tourists speaking of how awful it was that a king would build so much for himself, while others were suffering. And yet, I thought to myself, they have no problem enjoying his handiwork. 

If they truly hated it, would they not tear it down in disgust, or scrap it and donate the proceeds? Use the money they spent coming here for the poor instead? 

How could THEY enjoy themselves NOW as others suffered TODAY? 

And enjoy something so extravagant? 

Back to my first thought. 
I saw the Paris buildings, now full of commercialism. In my mind, I went back to how it may have once looked and how I may have once viewed it when the homes were newly built and just moved in. 'How sad that they grazed this land to build such homes.' I went back further in my mind, to when there was no town, only land. 

And in my mind, I saw God speaking to Adam. 'Take what I have made and create MORE.' 

God's creation will always surpass the works of man. And yet, I can't help wondering if God is pleased by seeing us thrive imaginatively with the gifts He's given us. I can't help but think that He loves seeing us ENJOY the fruit of our labor. 

Maybe He made dirt so that we might form art. 

I returned to my second thought. 
There's no way I'll ever be able to spend so much money on clothes. But ... who doesn't want to shop in foreign stores and find good deals? And then that's when a new life calling hit me. I must travel the world and visit every thrift store, YouTubing my experiences. The only thing, is I need a friend who's good at videography."

We went up a modern-looking tower to have a better view of Paris and arrived just in time to see the sunset. We went shopping and a staff lady asked me if I were from Russia, then she was so embarrassed when I told her I was from the USA, and she apologized over and over, then tried to help me with suggesting more clothing for me to look at. After that, we went for dinner at an Indian restaurant. I had fried eggplant and Lamb curry. For dessert, we all had some sort of dough in a very sweet syrup. It may have been called Saffron?

On the next day, we went with a tour up the Eiffel tower. Our tour met at a little office and we were given a breakfast box with croissants and coffee—the coffee was made according to preference. The others went to sit with the baby while I waited for the coffees. The guy who was making the coffees suddenly realized he'd put milk in the baby's father's coffee. "Oh, I'll make a new one."

I said, "I'm sure it's fine."

"Tell your dad I'm sorry and I'll make a new one if he likes."

I took him the coffee, and he was fine with the milk, and I told him he'd been mistaken for my father and he was horrified. "I'm not so old!"

We walked to the Eiffel tower and squeezed nearly to the front of the line—security to get into the tower reminded me very much of airport security. There's also a wall all around the tower. Supposedly, all of that is only about four-five years old.

We had a fun French guide who was quite charismatic and seemed to enjoy telling us about all the horrors of French history and it's government, of how no-one died building the tower even though they were hanging all over it basically asking to fall to their deaths, how France hated the tower for years and several times it was nearly destroyed, and how France is like that with anything new. "We hate change, and we think change is ugly. We hate the glass pyramid and the other tower in France. They are so ugly we can't even bear to look at them."

He told us about seventy-two names that are engraved around the tower, all scientists who Gustave Eiffel respected and wished to honor. "As a result, they are mostly all French. And I find it very sad that none of them are women and believe we should have some on there."

I laughed a little to myself and thought, "Why? They were scientists that Eiffel respected. Who cared who was there or not there, it was some personal thing for the builder of the tower, not something that actually validated anyone else. One should be free to respect (or not respect) who ones chooses."

He took us up to the second level, then showed us around and told us more stories and history. He pointed to an area, "That's where many of us work ... when we're not on strike."

Oh, we walked by a bunch of men striking sometime while we were in France. I probably wouldn't have liked what they were striking, but I loved the display all the same.


One of my favorite things in France were all the old lamps. I took way too many pictures of them. And of the ginormous apartment buildings and their intricate balconies and railings.
On the hop-on/hop-off bus with my Au Pair family enjoying are free red earbuds. 
One of my favorite pictures I took because of the moon in the upper right corner. 
A building that has walls of dirt and plants not far from the Eiffel Tower. 
I love the gardens and trees around the tower. Is it just me, or is this a fact that's not very well known?

Oh, but what's a cultural post without some politics? 
Outside a lot of touristy areas, but especially the Eiffel tower was tall, black men selling souvenirs. As soon as we stepped out of the security of the tower, there was a long line of men holding chains of miniature Eiffel towers, "Only one Euro! Seven for one Euro! Want to buy?"

And, yes they were in your face. And as soon as you said no they were on the next person (Or maybe they'd repeat how good of a deal it was). 

I didn't want any souvenirs. But all the same, I thought it was very neat. I love seeing any sort of display of capitalism, and of seeing men excited about their wares even when it's pure junk. 

But ... what interested me most was that what they were doing was technically illegal. The men who were selling on the blankets had their hands in these loops, ready to grab it all in a single swipe of the hands and be gone in less a second. 

See the next picture? Those are policemen on bikes about to go chase the men away. I love this. And I hope those black men win, because every man deserves the right to make a living, and it was such a better display of personhood than the many homeless people I saw shivering around Paris. 

After Paris, we stopped to see the Versailles castle.

A neat playground at one of the rest stops
And then we went home, straight after the tower and castle. We had McDonald's for lunch, and it didn't actually taste too bad.

I think this was on our way down to Paris, but at one rest stop where we breaked to feed the baby, it was very crowded inside. We took a table half full of other people, with seats empty on the other side of the people. There was no path for me to get through as the opposite table was so close the two ladies facing me had their chairs back to back. I asked if I might get through (mostly English, some German). The one lady looked at me like I'd insulted her by daring to ask her to leave her chair. She scooted her chair maybe half an inch, making it obvious she wasn't going to let me pass. But the other lady got up and let me through (I'm pretty sure the nicer lady was gay. I saw a lot of people I thought might be gay in France).
The ticket to use the toilet 
But yes, I'd heard that French people are very rude before going to France. Most Germans seem to agree on that. I definitely found it to be true some of the time. But business-type people were all very friendly and you couldn't help loving them.

We spent New Year's in Luxembourg, a small country about the size of Stuttgart and my fifth country. We visited some friends of my Au Pair family's, a very nice couple and their children. Then we had a fancy dinner at our hotel.

I was going to go straight to bed, as I love to do most nights, no exceptions for New Year's. But, they said there would be fireworks and we must celebrate. So I tried to find things to work on and keep me awake in my room until I was meant to meet my Au Pair family fifteen to midnight.

We ended up meeting late (but I saw fireworks out my bedroom window). But we celebrated in their room for a few minutes, then finally went to bed.
The next day we drove around Luxembourg to see a bit of it. Once, we went on a wrong road and had to turn around ... some lady driving by looked hard at us and pointed at her head with her finger, tapping her forehead several times.

Like, we didn't purposely go on a one-way road, and we were in a strange country. But some people think they have to be mad about everything.

My Au Pair family told me that what that lady was illegal in Germany and people got fines for that. Fines definitely seem a bit excessive, but all the same, how does it help to demean an already shook up driver? I'm pretty sure that lady must have been of French descent (this is a joke, I would not actually believe all French people to be rude).
My fifth country, Luxembourg 
Top: First night
Middle left: Breakfast on the next day
Middle right: Partridge
Bottom left: Indian dessert that I can't remember the name of
Bottom right: McDonald's

Believe it or not, this post originally had way more photos.

Lots of fun music was played on the road trip, so it's hard to share just some of it. But here I am telling you all to look of a German a Capella group called Wise Guys, especially the one I'm linking, then also check out this lovely song that has lyrics written by Bonhoeffer.





I wanted a clever title ... but I also wanted to let y'all know this wasn't Germany. So I settled for very unoriginal and blunt. 

What do you think I should have named this post?

Have you heard of Luxembourg before? What would you be most excited to see in Paris, if you went? Which of the evening meals sounds most delicious to you? 

Comments

  1. Ahhh, you're living my little sister's dream! She really wants to go to Paris, I'll have to show her this post!!
    Your pictures are beautiful, and good thoughts as always. <3

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    Replies
    1. I hope she can go someday. Au Pair is actually a French term, I think. So maybe she can go be an Au Pair there ;)
      Thanks, Gray!!

      Delete
  2. Wow! I'm loving the pictures and comments...it's the next best thing to going oneself!

    Also, Russians are everywhere...I speak Russian (and travel to Belarus, as we have friends there). And it seems like I'm always hearing Russian now...on my trip to England, I ran into Russians twice. One time I was in a backcountry mountainous NC town campground...and ran into a Russian family in the bathhouse. They're always happy to talk to a Russian speaker, so that's cool.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you're enjoying it all! Hope you can have the BEST thing someday;)

      And yeah, Russians are everywhere. We lived with a family for part of a spring. Some of my favorite people to this day. And some of fellow German class students are Russian. I didnt know you understood the language though! Way too neat.

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  3. Wow love all the pictures!
    I have heard that going into other countries over there was like going into another state over here.
    I think it would be cool to see the Eiffel tower. :)

    astordetective.blogspot.com

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rakayle!
      Yeah, it's so crazy! But makes sense when you realize how small most of the countries here are. Even Germany is tiny 😆
      It would be great if you could see it someday! And maybe you can be one of the few American tourists that doesn't look like a Barbie;)

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  4. I love reading about your adventures! These pictures are so, so, so neat! 100% awesome. Thanks for sharing, Keturah!

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    1. Ah thanks so much! There's always that hard balance of enjoying the moment and taking pictures to share later. Always trying to think of you all ;)

      Delete
  5. Was the partridge good? That sounds like such a luxurious dish to dine on, somehow.

    And that's so cool you went to Luxembourg! (And Paris, naturally.) Growing up, I had friends whose grandparents were from Luxembourg, so I've always been interested in that tiny country.

    I love these posts. All the pictures are lovely, and some are simply stunning. Like that one with the moon, and the cathedral. And you got to visit Versailles!! (My heart is fluttering. I think with jealousy. Haha.)

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    1. The patridge was super delicious and luxurious!

      That's so, soooo neat you've always had an interest in Luxembourg. I hope you can go someday!

      Thanks so much! Everything felt artistically ready made. And I don't think I can ever stop saying it hard enough; don't be jealous, but find a way to go yourself, too! This applies to ANYTHING and everything in life ;)

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  6. Ahhh this is so cool, Keturah! All the pictures. *heart eyes (again)* So beautiful. France has never really been on my "I-gotta-get-there" list (I mean, I'd take a free ticket any day, but it wasn't a PRIORITY), but you're making me wanna go. :)

    I think you are quite right about God giving us dirt so we can make art. That is such a nice, concise way of putting it. He made us in His image, and He is a creator, and we are called to imitate His creative love!

    That's so *funny* about the bathrooms. I told my sisters what you said and they were like, "If you have to pay to use them, shouldn't they be NICER than the ones we have here?" :P

    Also love what you said about the street vendors. GKC goes off on a rant someplace (I think in Eugenics and Other Evils, but other places as well I'm sure) about how a man should be able to make a living on/in public spaces. Great minds think alike. :)

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    1. Thanks Megan! That's how I felt originally about France. But going once made me want to go again. Also, now I actually want to learn the language, while previously I was a little set against it.

      I so agree that we are called to imitate his creative love;)

      You have to pay for a lot of German bathrooms, too, and they are very nice. And to be fair, most of the French bathrooms that weren't as nice were free. And even the dirtier ones that cost money were still nice in that the stalls are completely enclosed and have no cracks in the hinges of the doors.

      GREAT MINDS THINK A LIKE, YES! Haha! I should read that book/ essay/ whatever it is he wrote ;)

      Delete
  7. Hi Keturah! I recently found your blog and have loved reading about your adventures. You're a gifted storyteller, and it must have been wonderful to get some inspiration in France and Luxembourg!

    I spent some time in Paris last year and was also struck by the street vendors. After doing a little research, I realized that some of them, unfortunately, are not self-employed. A lot of the vendors in Paris (and around the Eiffel Tower in particular) are victims of human trafficking who are being forced to sell souvenirs by their traffickers. I believe the police broke up a trafficking ring at the Eiffel Tower a couple of years ago, but the traffickers have returned and continue to use the heavy flow of tourists to their advantage. That realization definitely puts a damper on my Paris memories and reminds me to pray for the city.

    Thanks for sharing your journey. Keep enjoying Europe!

    -Grace M.

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    1. Hello, Grace! Thank you so much for your kind words and for reading my blog!!

      Ah that makes me so sad, especially as I really loved the vendors. I'm going to have to research that now myself. Thanks so much for telling me.

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  8. I loved this! The pictures are beautiful!

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