Wednesday, 18 June 2008, Mopping up

(Written 18 June 2008)

It's been a splended trip, and as usual, I'll group here the many interesting snippets I didn't manage (or remember) to include earlier. For example, many French fast food places advertise three different choices (besides doner kababs and pizza): hamburger, cheeseburger, and "American." Hamburgers and cheeseburgers are pretty much what you'd expect—one or two round patties on a round bun, but an American turns out to be a split baguette into which two or three patties are tucked, along with a thick layer of french fries, yes, right in there with the burgers. Gives a whole new meaning to "You want fries with that?"

In Nancy, we looked at the listings in the tourism office to see whether any festivals or events were planned, but the only thing scheduled was the European horseball championships. At first, I thought "horseball" might be French for "polo" (after all, they use the English word "football" to refer to a game that's called something else in English), but no, it's a sort of cross between rugby and polo, in which players on horseback careen around the field throwing back and forth what looked, in the photo, like a soccer ball wearing a leather harness fitted with loops for catching and throwing. I sincerely hope the riders don't actually try to tackle each other or make their horses push against each other's foreheads! Anyway, it's apparently all the rage now, and growing fast, but we decided we didn't need to be the first on our block and chose to spend our time in other ways.

Champagne presses are wider and shallower than the presses used for other winemaking, the better to press the grapes slowly and gently.

Did I mention that black locust trees (Robinia pseudoacacia) and elderberry bushes (Sambucus sp., maybe S. nigra?) were in bloom everywhere, especially during our first couple of days of driving? Later (and further east), hawthorns were in bloom everywhere.

And apparently the mania has passed. This year we did not hear Whitney Houston (whom I have characterized in the past as "Wailing Woman"—before I knew who she was—and as cultural imperialism personified) on the muzak anywhere, at all. (Well, there was an unidentified American female vocalist at one point that I couldn't swear wasn't her, but at least she wasn't wailing.) I was beginning to think we'd never hear French music in a French restaurant again, but this year we did, a few times. In fact, today, in Tallahassee(!), Quizno's was playing an actual French pop music radio station on their muzak! Not French music, but the DJ's were yattering rapidly in French between songs. Here's to a little reverse cultural imperialism!

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