It occurred to me this morning that this would be the first Thanksgiving ever that I’d be away from family.
It was a strange feeling, to be honest. Unsurprisingly, Thanksgiving is not celebrated in France and thus, unless you knew better, it would be impossible to know that this particular Thursday is a holiday. I had class, hung out with friends and ate like usual here in Strasbourg, with Thanksgiving merely a thought in the back of my head.
Mind you, this is in part because I had a sort of “Thanksgiving” in Nancy last weekend. Nancy happens to be the main city in Lorraine, another region habitually fought over between the French and the Germans—although, Alsace will always be their favorite child. However, unlike Strasbourg, Nancy is thoroughly French in comparison. I felt like I was in ‘Petit Paris’ the whole time I was there. The cool, limestone architecture was adorned with blue-grey shingled roofs and gold filigree, looking practically picturesque at every juncture.
The main square for example, Place Stanislas (named after the King of Poland and duke of Lorraine, Stanislaus I), was the complete antithesis of Strasbourg’s counterpart, Place Kléber. Where Place Kléber is a smorgasbord of Alsatian houses, modern malls, and Prussian architecture, Place Stanislas is utterly French—right down to the hotel on the square that Marie Antoinette once stayed in.
Regardless, I had a wonderful time there. I was fortunate enough to have a multiple course dinner at a fantastic little restaurant in Nancy. It was a very ‘Frenchified’ Thanksgiving, but it great nevertheless. I left that restaurant so full that I didn’t need to eat until the following day. Although the food was French, there’s nothing quite so American as stuffing yourself full.
After our Thanksgiving repas, we went to the utterly fantastic Musée des Beaux-Arts. Let me tell you, I prefer that art museum to all the rest I’ve seen in France so far. It’s built into the remains of the old concert hall on Place Stanislas and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s filled with all manner of wondrous paintings, as well as modern art of all types. My particular favorite exhibit happened to be this mirrored room, full of lights. Once entered, one would feel like you were in the middle of infinity. It was as intriguing as it was disconcerting, to say the least.
After leaving the museum, it began to snow. I, being a true Oregonian, freaked out. I love snow, in part because I don’t have to deal with the consequences of it. In comparison, my Michigander friends were certainly less amused by the turning of the weather. I distinctly remember walking to the train station to go home at the end of the day, all the while watching the snow fall. There’s something distinctly magical about snow at train stations. I blame Harry Potter for that phenomenon.
There’s something else I’ve observed: there is something distinctly European about long train rides. Now, I realize that we have trains in the States, but there’s something special about European train rides. Maybe it’s due to all of the movies I’ve watched and books I’ve read, but there’s certainly a sense of adventure one gets from riding in a train. It may be in part due to the fact that I’m riding through the old country, through the old world. There’s a certain sense of history here that the US lacks, for better or for worse.
In any case, I’m back in Strasbourg now and I’m writing this on the actual day of Thanksgiving. It goes without saying that it is a bit bittersweet at the moment. Regardless, I would like to end this little post with a few things I’m thankful for:
- My wonderful family back in the States.
- My great friends back home and here with me abroad.
- My marvelous host ‘family’ of twenty-somethings.
- My adventures I’ve had the fortune to have here in Strasbourg.
- My coat, which was finally released from French customs.
Seriously, I could write a whole blog post about my damn coat. I’m so thankful to have the damn thing now.