Strasbourg and the spring

Strasbourg has become an entirely different city during the last few weeks. The biting cold that set in during December began to wither away during March. These months were freezing and dark, and I kept my gloves with me at all times just in case. But recently there has been somewhat of a renaissance. Where there was once the overwhelming brown of bare branches, there is now refreshing green and sometimes candy floss pink. The lifeless, weed-infested grass is now freshly cut and holds promises of sunbathing and daisy chains.

Today was glorious. After 11 hours of exams this week, I decided I was allowed to sleep in late. When I opened my blinds, the sky was perfection: brilliant and endless blue with an insignificant smudge of white cloud here and there. Definitely not coat weather, heck, it wasn’t even jacket weather. I opted for a cardigan which also proved unnecessary and I stuck it in my bag.

I love travelling around Strasbourg. The bus route to the university campus takes me down a long, straight boulevard lined with embassy buildings, the Council of Europe and the Parc de l’Orangerie. Then on towards the river and through the smaller streets where cafés spill onto the streets and small shops sell vintage clothing or old leather-bound books.

The campus looks so much more attractive in this weather too. Even the ugly law school building with its blue and red panelling looks oddly charming in the sun. Students are outside socialising. Someone cracks out an acoustic guitar. Maybe they play ‘Wonderwall’, or maybe there’s a French equivalent.

It’s so nice outside that I stick on The Maine, my go-to good-weather band, and start walking the nearly 2 miles home. Then I remember that I have hay fever and I sniff my way to the tram stop instead.

The route home on the tram is excellent, particularly now. Les tricolors around Place de la République are an injection of primary colours that stand out against the greenery and the sand coloured buildings. The European Parliament glints as the light hits its glass exterior. Do you remember having a see through plastic pencil case when you were younger? Do you remember turning it inside out so the seams were on the outside? That’s sort of what the European Parliament looks like, an inside out pencil case – thanks Ollie for that perfect analogy!

The flags of all the EU member countries are displayed in two ordered lines, including that of the UK. The warm breeze toys with them delicately and they flutter in unison. It’s a pleasant sight. I ponder that if the flag of my homeland was not there, my process of living abroad may have been much more difficult, or may not have even happened at all…but that’s none of my business. I know very little about politics and would be a truly horrible politician. I know how I’m voting though. I’ll stop now.

kermit

Kermit knows.

When the weather is good, everything is transformed. People are walking, running, cycling, chatting, chilling, laughing. They seem happier. I too am happier in the sun. I fall a little bit more in love with this city through this enchanting golden filter.

I have to leave soon. I need to get a bit more vitamin D before I can be okay with that fact.

 

Now playing: twenty one pilots – Ride

 

 

 

 

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Spring has sprung!

Picture an animal emerging from its hibernation place. It might take a couple of attempts but after waking up fully and assessing the temperature, it might emerge from its resting place, sniff the air and shake off the dust of the winter months.

It is with the same caution that I am going to make an announcement: I THINK SPRING IS FINALLY HERE!

It flirted with us for a few weeks but then the heavenly weatherman decided he wanted us to have biting winds, overcast skies and rain for just a bit longer. It was the kind of weather when you think you might be able to get away with not wearing your waterproof coat but then halfway through the day, the skies open leaving you dreading the walk home with nought but a laptop to cover your head.

But now, the cloud that gave us such a great view of the eclipse last week (please note my sarcasm…I inherited it from my dad) has lifted and we have been treated to blue skies and sun that warms the backs of your legs. It’s not too hot, still hoody weather which I’m totally ok with but I finally feel safe leaving my coat at home, opting instead for my Glamour Kills jacket.

I love the spring time. The winter gloom has been cast off and the evenings are getting lighter – it’s quarter to seven now and it’s still light outside. The sun wants us to stay out longer and make the most of these new-found hours of daylight. The bare brown branches of the trees are dotted with green buds that promise new life. The bulbs of daffodils and other springtime flowers are breaking free of the oppressive ground and starting to display their colours. I love daffodils. Apparently it’s not normal that they’re my favourite flowers, but I don’t care – there’s nothing like seeing a sea of yellow and sometimes orange flowers bobbing their heads in the breeze. You know what else I like? Seeing clumps of primroses on the sides of roads. From a distance, I always think they look like big ol’ blobs of scrambled eggs…too weird? Got it.

Look how happy and in-your-face they are!

Look how happy and in-your-face they are!

But what I really like about spring is that my mood seems to improve and I start to feel a bit happier. Winter can be really miserable – it’s horrible outside a lot of the time, it’s dark for more hours than it is light and it’s so cold. Too many shadows can fester in the depths of winter. It can be all too easy to fall into these shadows and become stuck in the winter that doesn’t seem like it will end. The winter seems to stretch on for eternity with no chance for escape or the rejuvenation of spring, with you being swept up in it’s all-encompassing wake.

But it will always arrive. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, spring will come, and you too can be reborn and escape the clutches of winter. Today might be a really bad day, but your own personal spring will always come and you will learn and grow with it. Look around at it. Isn’t it beautiful? That’s what I love the most about the spring I think; the opportunity for new growth.

That, and the fact that I’ve managed to sneakily turn off the central heating in our house without my flatmates knowing or moaning about it being cold! Score!

Now playing: Myopia – Enter Shikari

It’s the most wonderful tiiiiiiiiime, of the yearrrrrr!

I love this kind of year. The weather is cold, sharp and crisp; the Christmas lights and decorations light up town centres both big and small; people bustle around shops with a frantic sense of purpose (“I MUST find something for great aunt Sue because she won’t have anything to open!!”) and what I find really amusing is the fact that all of a sudden, it’s customary and appropriate to ask everyone you see, whether they be family or strangers, about Santa and their plans for the big day. This might just be because I’m from a small town in rural Devon, but whether you’re being served in a shop or chatting to your boss at work, it’s the easiest small talk in the world and everyone has a similar answer. Most of the time it revolves around spending time with family or people they love which is the part I always look forward to at Christmas.

Being some of the youngest in our family, my cousins are all grown up with spouses and children of their own and rarely travel down to the shire, so Christmas is a perfect time to see all the family together and we can get 4 generations under one roof. We have a wonderful time all squashing into my aunt and uncle’s house and parking ourselves on a variety of mismatched chairs, tables borrowed from the bowls club amid cries of people shouting ‘stop hogging the prawns!’ The house is cosy from the fire and too many bodies wearing too many layers and the table is scattered with decorations including snowflake table confetti which can be very easily stuck to faces when you lick it. I know it sounds a bit gross, but when you’ve got fully grown adults with pockmarked snowflaked faces it’s hard to not smile.

Another crazy tradition we have is the infamous breadstick eating contest. My sister and I compete with whichever of our cousins are sitting nearest to us to see who can eat a breadstick the fastest. We seem to let the side down every year! My breadstick seems to end up being chomped in one side of my mouth and falling straight out the other leaving me in a crumby, giggling mess. This year, I’m going to try taking bigger chomps…I’ll report back with the results of this new technique!

After food, we’ll walk around the hills nearby all bundled up in new jackets and sometimes wellies and attempt to burn off a fraction of the deliciousness consumed but when we return, the exercise is deemed pointless as we’re bombarded with offers of more mince pies or turkey sandwiches.

By the end of the day, and after many games of cards, we return home sporting generous food babies and absolutely exhausted and ready to sleep for a week. We all have had a wonderful day and just like that, it’s all over for another year. The post-Christmas blues suck!

Christmas for me is spending time with family and that’s probably what makes it my favourite time of year. Well, that and the fact that during Christmas time, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a nap mid-afternoon and people don’t ask whether you should stop procrastinapping and do some work!

I hope that whatever you’ve spent your day doing has been marvellous, Christmas love :) x

Now playing: Ed Sheeran – X (album)