I want to reminisce about my jaunts in and near Strasbourg, France,
taken in conjunction with the ASTA congress this year.
I am justifying doing so now on the grounds that the entire area
(Alsace) is noted for its Christmas markets.
During ASTA, in early November, we had a preview in Strasbourg
at a minimarket laid out for delegates. At the outdoor, wood-framed
stalls, we could shop for holiday crafts and decorations.
That was the planned preview, but we saw other indicators of the
Alsacian penchant for decorating -- and not just for Christmas.
My out-of-town destinations were Colmar (birthplace of
Bartholdi, creator of the Statue of Liberty), and, on another day,
the tinier Barr and Obernai, each accessible in 40 minutes or less
by rail from Strasbourg.
I found English-speaking ticket sellers in Strasbourg and
Colmar. The first seller reminded me to punch my ticket, before
boarding, at the orange machines travelers must pass en route to
Each machine makes a distinct cut on the edge of the ticket, and
I worried what would happen (a fine, maybe?) when the conductor
discovered I had missed this routine on running for the train at
Maybe a fine is called for, but after I dived into franglais to
say I had not seen the machine (I hadn't), the conductor shrugged
These small towns have tourist offices, and I visited the
Obernai office to get a map, arriving just in time. It closed for
the weekday lunch hour.
I walked as much as possible in a short time. I can't recall
when I have seen so many half-timbered houses and certainly none as
brightly colored. They came in shouting yellows, bright blues, even
hot pink. By comparison, those in England and Normandy look mighty
Also, some Christmas decorations were in place, lining or
crossing over village streets. I visited indoor shops beautiful
with vast arrays of holiday goods on display. So I was surprised,
in November, to find a Colmar house with windows still decked out
with Halloween figures.
In Strasbourg, holiday lights also were in place, ready to be
turned on. Even without the Christmas excuse, side streets near the
cathedral were so brightly lighted, I got night photos.
What did I get? Halloween again. One is a shadowy witch on a
broomstick "flying" across a spotlight.
And my favorite shot? It shows a huge rag doll Santa climbing
onto a roof. What the photo could not show is the window display
below -- Halloween candles.