Winter has really started now in Lorraine. We have had a bit of snow near Nancy and more in the moutains. And the last two days' mornings were cold (-9°C, 16°F).
The worst happened yesterday evening when black ice arrived on the region. It became a huge ice rink. People were advised not to go out and to wait for the morning to use their car.
At least it was during the week end and people could stay at home near the fire place or near a wood stove (which is fashionable again).
I remember the wood stoves we had at home when I was young, the heat was so pleasant. Of course, adults had all the job to do, cutting the wood, bringing it in, taking the ashes out, cleaning regularly, but we were not cold inside and we sometimes opened the window because it was too hot! One stove was enough for two rooms if they were small, even in the middle of the winter.
The stove I particularly liked was the one in the kitchen. There was always a stewpot or a casserole on it and my grand-mother was checking everything was going on well. The bar on three sides was very useful to put wet gloves to dry in winter. In the evenings we put chestnuts on the top and enjoyed eating them after dinner.
People coud go away and let something simmering on the side. My grand-father used to tell the story of his neighbour who had to keep an eye on the stove when his wife had gone to church. The man was a bit absent-minded and one day, when the woman came back home, she discovered he had put a piece of wood in the soup pot instead of the stove! The poor husband rushed outside and visited my grand-father waiting for the storm to calm down.
Good old times.
It is strange how a small holly tree makes us think about Christmas and New Year time. And today, this small tree is really beautiful and ready to start 2017.
Lorraine is cold and foggy but we have had a few sunny days with a splendid blue sky in the last weeks. Frost is everywhere and it is worth taking a few pictures.
It could start snowing on Monday and people of the Vosges moutains would be happy. Here, in the "flat" part of Lorraine we are not so enthusiastic.
Anyway we are all happy to welcome a new year.
I wish you all Bonne Année et Bonne Santé. May 2017 be a really good year. I'll try to be more present in this new year with more articles.
In memory of Andy, the cool man, who knew the Star Inn.
As we arrived early in Dover, we had time to stop in Kent on our way to Sussex. So we first admired the Channel from St Mary's Bay, then we drove to St Mary in the Marsh in Kent. I noticed the name of the village years ago and was interested in its location.
As its name says, the village is in the marshes, about two miles away from seaside. We arrived near the church and the view was one of a typical English village: the church, the red postbox, the red phone box and the pub.
The church of St Mary in the Marsh is old, some parts date from 1133. The tower dates from Norman time. The building is on a mound to avoid winter time flooding. I have read that is has been used by smugglers as other churches in Romney Marsh. We had a walk around and you can see far away from there, a beautiful view.
We were in the heart of the village, there are only about 40 houses which you don't see at first. But another building stands at this point: the Star Inn, the local pub. It is mentioned in documents dated 1476.
In the middle of the afternoon we didn't ask for food but for a hot drink. We enjoyed good coffee surrounded by kind people. I don't know which radio programme was on, but I would say the music was the one of the 40s or the 50s.
I asked about trumpets above the bar and a customer told me they are used for fox hunting. Then we spoke about the job of another one. The Star Inn is definitely a welcoming place.
When we were at our friends', we mentioned The Star Inn, this little pub in the middle of the marshes, and were surprised our friend Andy knew it.
We will miss you, Andy.
Each time we have been from Lorraine to England we have followed the same route and had the same landmarks.
First we see the change in the colour of the earth. in Champagne it is lighter, whiter (because of the chalk). And there are all these wind turbines which have been "growing" in the last decades.
Then we notice vehicles on the motorway different from the ones we usually see in France. There was an Airstream trailer going to the north as we were driving up there. Strangely we saw another one used to sell hotdogs a few days later in Greenwich.
When you start seeing houses made with red bricks, you know you have arrived in le Nord, these are typical buildings of the north of France.
This year we wanted to have a night in a hotel, we stopped in Bruay-la-Buissière before crossing the Channel. The decoration made us think about the 70s.
The end of the French road is in Calais harbour. Depending on the time you arrive, you have to wait for a few minutes or one hour to go with the car on the ferry.
We had a good trip with a calm sea and a good lunch on board before going outside to look at the white cliffs of England. I always like this, the minute I really feel I am on holiday.
And it is the arrival in Dover with the usual traffic jams and road works but also the big change and all the things which make you feel sure you are in England.
As I wrote above, the same trip, and the same pleasure.
When you walk in Riquewihr streets, and especially where most shops are, you don't look up. I would not have noticed this building if I had not seen the sign saying Le Gratte-Ciel (the Skyscraper).
Le Gratte-Ciel is a half-timbered house; that is very common in Alsace. But it is also a five-storey house, and this means it is one of the highest half-timbered house of the region. When you know it has been built during the 16th century, you understand it deserves special attention.
I don't know why this building is so high. Was the owner a rich man and/or a man with a big family? Or was it a building for merchants ? Anyway, it must have been difficult, expensive and long to get such a high house.
Le Gratte-Ciel is one of the numerous houses to look at and discover in Alsace. Each one has got something unusual, special, which makes you want to know more about it.