Category Archives: France

Local people

11 o’clock, 11th day, 11th month. I am  sitting on a bench on a railway platform in Breisach on the French German border, waiting on a train to take us north to where the wind blows after half a decade living on the calm right bank of the Old Rhine.
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Sentier du Littoral – Walking the Blue Coast

In May the Cote D’Azur’s Sentier du Littoral is coastal path paradise and a beachcomber’s delight. There are very few other filthy tourists and the rocky coves are piled high with driftwood. Continue reading

Vine time

I took a  break from walking beaches to take part in this year’s grape harvest. A Winzermeister from a nearby town invited me to help and I thought a little manual labour would do me no harm.  Continue reading

Smack dab in the middle

A little to the south of Breisach and some 40 km north of the Swiss border two trees grow, one either side of the towpath that runs along the right bank of the old Rhine channel. These two trees form my portal between northern and southern Europe. This gateway is where the cool north and the warm south meet, the midpoint between machair and maquis. Continue reading

Hibernating fleas

Sunday morning early starts are over for the year. Last Sunday was the final pre-dawn break for the border two hours before the Shipping Forecast.

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Harvest in Germany – a country on the pop

Late summer and early autumn in southern Germany is a time of much drinking, a bit like the rest of the year in fact, but a little more choreographed with popular wine festivals and being-sick-on-beer festivals. Continue reading

Terms and conditions of Britain’s relationship with Europe

David Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the European Union. Well he can take the day off and annoy his family as I have defined suitable terms for him. Continue reading

Collecting stereotypes

Like the grizzly Manxman on the Pequod I was born ‘in the little rocky Isle of Man’. I confess that neither have I his ‘preternatural powers of discernment’ nor was I ‘taught….by the old witch in Copenhagen’. But I can spot a salmon or a stereotype on a good day at 20 paces. Continue reading

Rhine salmon

SILVER TOURISTS – PAST AND PRESENT

In 2012 two Atlantic salmon, the first for over 50 years, managed to swim their way  up the Rhine to Switzerland. The Upper Rhine is still blocked by French EDF dams  and these fish had to sneak through the locks beneath the barges heading upstream to Basel. Continue reading

The good, the mad and the same – life in Germany

Germany is always ‘dead fucking last’ on any British list of places to live or places to holiday-home. As the only Manx person living here on purpose I offer you the skeet – the good, the mad and the ‘same as it ever was’ of 18 months living on the bank of the Rhine in southern Germany a short paddle from France.

The story of my cycling endeavours

The story of my cycling endeavours – who brakes loses

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Open-air cathedrals

For the first time I cut down a tree this year. Tall weak and spindly and the tree was little better. But neither of us are yet lost causes. At 24 feet taller than me it was always going to be a challenge to get the 30 foot fella to fit in this low ceiling-ed apartment cell.

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Pigsticking

With the first frosts of winter I have explored the forest of Baden-Württemberg and Alsace either side of the southern Rhine. More precisely I have scratched around the dead ground, for that is the ground that the spiky blackthorn loves best.  Continue reading

Insufficient self-sufficiency

In my daftest musings I imagine I could get by quite well on a Scottish west coast ‘desert island’. Truth is I might survive on summer low tide beach foraging but the long cold dark wet winter and a diet of limpets, perish the thought and me. Continue reading

Flohs and Puces – flea markets of Germany and France

The flea markets on the French and German sides of the Rhine in Alsace and Baden-Württemberg have evolved separately and have developed their own distinct characteristics and culinary delights. Continue reading

Fumbling French Flea

A big plus of living in the heart of Europe is the option, without any lists or planning to just throw tent and stuff on the bike or into the car and without any online-booking bollocks simply escape across a border or two. Continue reading

The cake scale

Let them eat cake every 160.9344 km” (attrib. Queenie Marie Antoinette)

I brought my trusty push-bike and my scented running shoes to Southern Germany and though I have succeeded in re-calibrating the bike’s odometer to kilometers I am still stuck in thinking in the Queen’s finest olde Imperial.  Continue reading

Bandes cyclables & German noodles

The Southern Rhine divides two countries and two very different cycling experiences. In the south of Germany most roads have at least one cycle path, often well removed from the roads. The French have had a go, splashed a bit of paint around, marked a few cycle lanes in cities, printed a few maps and signs but their heart isn’t in it. Continue reading

Name die Tune

Our primitive car radio cannot pick up BBC6music in the far south land. Condemned to listen to the FM stations from Germany and France has encouraged us to develop our own in-car entertainment. We call the game GEMA after the German organisation for the prevention of music. You are welcome to play this game without paying me or them any royalties. Continue reading

An unravelling mystery

“It’s awful undermining to the intellect, German is; you want to take it in small
doses, or first you know your brains all run together
Mark Twain – A Tramp Abroad

I have lived in a small town in Germany for one year. My home is on the right bank of the Southern Rhine with a view across the river to France and its huge Wrigley chewing gum factory and only a 40 minute mad dodge through herds of a pug ugly Swiss 4WD white BMW’s along the Autobahn from Switzerland. Continue reading

Everybody’s gotta be somewhere

Everybody’s gotta be somewhere!”
Eccles

When I told a neighbour on the Isle of Man that I was moving to live in Germany he advised me that the Manx are “bored abroad” and that the troubles of the world are caused by people who don’t stay where they are put. There is more than a smidgen of truth in the anecdote about the Manx crab:

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