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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

At 6:30 PM every evening, a torch is rekindled. Veterans lay wreaths decorated with the red, white and blue colors of the French flag near its flickering flame. A daily ritual since it was first lit in 1923,  the torch burns eternally in memory of  an unknown French soldier who gave his life during the First World War.

Under the Arc de Triomphe stands this torch. The unknown soldier buried here represents all the unidentified soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.


An inscription on the tomb  reads “ Ici Repose un Soldat Français Mort pour La Patrie 1914-1918” (Here lies a French soldier who died for his fatherland 1914-1918).
Arc de Triomphe
It is heartbreaking to think of the countless bodies of fallen soldiers who were never identified : husbands, sons or fathers who never came home after the war.

The unknown soldier gave his life to a war not of his making nor his liking to protect the freedom of people who will never know his name.

Sharing Chris de Burgh's haunting song Borderline by Singaporean singer Chyi.

"...But these are only boys, and I will never know
How men can see the wisdom in a war.."




Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Klompen

Now breaks my wooden shoe!!

?????

Haha! The above expression is a literal translation from the Dutch idiom Nou breekt mijn klomp! —  the English equivalent of gobsmacked.

Dutch clogs are very hard and tough, and don’t break easily, so if someone says their clog breaks, it's an expression of astonishment.

An intrinsic part of Dutch culture, clogs are associated with many idiomatic expressions in the Dutch language.

Clogs or Klompen as they are called in the Netherlands are worn by the Dutch since the 13th century. And these wooden shoes have been keeping feet injury free for hundreds of years. Farmers and factory workers wear them to protect their feet from stray hooves and dropped tools. It's kinda funny though to imagine a cow stepping on your foot! Ouch!

Although clogs are now largely made for tourists, the wooden footwear is still worn by farmers, fishermen, factory workers, gardeners etc to protect their feet. Nails, fishing hooks and sharp implements that might pierce a regular boot will not go through a wooden shoe. On boats and docks and in muddy fields, the waterproof clogs keep feet dry. Clog wearers claim the wooden shoes are warm in the winter and cool in the summer!

Fun Facts

1. Throughout the early history of wooden clogs, members of nobility would not wear the wooden shoes because they were associated with peasantry. However, by the twentieth century the shoes evolved into fashionable footwear.

2. Dutch clogs are  EU certified as safety shoes as they can withstand sharp and heavy objects and concentrated acids.

3. As wooden shoes were used to fuel the fireplace once they were worn out, historians find it difficult to precisely date the origins of clogs. They estimate that the first clogs appeared at least 850 years ago and the oldest wooden shoe known was found in the Nieuwendijk in Amsterdam.

4. Dutch brides and grooms wear wooden clogs on their wedding day. After the ceremony, the clogs are then filled with flowers and hung on the wall as a keepsake and talisman for a lasting marriage.

5. In the olden days, a Dutch marriage proposal involved a hopeful suitor hand carving a pair of ornate clogs and placing  them secretly at night on his intended's doorsteps. He would return the next morning and if she was wearing the clogs, it was a sign that she had accepted the proposal! She would then wear the clogs until the wedding day. I am guessing that a rejected suitor would find his labour of love fueling the fireplace!  Poor fella! I really wooden want to be in his clogs...er... shoes!  Pardon the pun.

6.About six million souvenir clogs are produced in the Netherlands each year.

Bridal clogs on display in the Zaanse Schans Clog Museum



A clog workshop

Traditional clogs were made from a square block of wood. The wood was wet down, axed and smoothed into shape. The shoes were stacked to allow for thorough drying. They were then painted, usually with a variety of patterns. Many villages had their own patterns and designs for clogs, and the styles of shoe varied throughout the different areas of Europe.






Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Belgian Fries

I was told that once you have tasted the fries in Belgium, you will never have them as good anywhere else in the world!

Thickly cut and fried twice in beef tallow, Belgian fries are super crispy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. They are typically sold in a paper cone, and with a plastic fork. The locals love their fries smothered with thick dollops of mayonnaise. Some vendors (friekot) offer up to 40 different kinds of sauces : Andalouse (mayo, tomato, and peppers), Samurai (harissa mayo),  curry sauce, bicky ketchup, Bearnaise ...

BELGIAN FRIES, FLEMISH FRIES OR JUST FRIES BUT NEVER FRENCH FRIES!

No one calls them French fries in Belgium and apparently, there is a longstanding culinary war over the rightful ownership of the fries. I was told that Belgians remain sensitive about their fries being referred to as French.

They may be known across the world as ‘French fries’, but there’s nothing French about them. The name ‘friet’ comes from patates frites, Belgian-French for ‘fried potatoes’. One possible explanation for the association could be that when American soldiers were introduced to ‘fried potatoes’ in Belgium during WWI, they thought they were in France because French was the language spoken in that region.

The Belgians blame the American soldiers  for having dubbed their national dish with the misnomer!



We had ours topped with pulled pork and chopped onions in a curry sauce. It was truly amazing!
And once you've tasted Belgian frites, there is no going back!

Musings Of A Tired Mummy

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Adele's Bridge

Bridges fascinate me, especially the old ones built from centuries ago.There is something magical about these structures that are designed to connect people and places that would otherwise have to exist separately.

I can still recall the first time I caught a glimpse of London's Tower Bridge ahead on the horizon. Having seen this bridge in so many pictures and movies, and always hoping to see it myself one day, it felt surreal crossing it. Every sense in me heightened. I tried to take it all in as fast and as much as I could.Then the brief encounter was over and everything was but a memory. I wanted to turn around and cross it all over again!

That same feeling was awaken when I spotted an ornate fairy-tale-like bridge across the River Seine. I didn't realize it at first but we were actually crossing the most beautiful bridge in Paris and some say, the world! It only hit me then that the bridge was Pont Alexandre III when I recognized the elegant candelabras that graced the balustrades from Adele's video Someone Like You.
image source - Google maps
The ornate bridge was breathtakingly beautiful and with the gold glistening against the drab, gray Paris sky, it was a sight to behold.

Pont is French for bridge. The bridge is named after Alexandre III, the Russian Tsar responsible for signing the Franco-Russian Alliance in 1892.

Gilded statues of Fame restraining Pegasus crown the 4 columns that act as counterweights for the single spanning arch –  a marvel of 19th century engineering. Each of these columns has a name : Renommée des Sciences (Fame of the Sciences), Renommée des Arts (Fame of the Arts), Renommée du Commerce (Fame of Commerce) and Renommée de l'Industrie (Fame of Industry).
image source - www.worldsiteguides.com
Fame of Commerce

Fame restraining Pegasus

Fame of Industry
The 4 columns are each adorned with a statue allegorical of a specific and important period of French history: King Louis XIV, Charlemagne, Contemporary France and Renaissance France.

Statue of King Louis XIV in front of the Fame of  Industry


Adele's Bridge!

Crossing the bridge in a bus, we missed out many elaborate sculptures on the bridge : lions, cherubs, nymphs, maidens, cupids, water spirits, fish, scalloped seashells, sea monsters.... Plus, taking photographs in a moving vehicle proved to be quite a challenge! Just as I was about to click the camera, the bus would have passed the intended subject already!

I was having a tough time using the above image to find related images on the web so I could identify the sculpture when my son Rodney pointed out to me that  the black thingy wasn't part of the sculpture –  it was a sticker on the window of our coach!!!  :smack:

Photo fail!

Sharing instead the following HD images, courtesy of EUtouring.com.
image credit - eutouring.com
This sculpture (the one with the window sticker!) embellishes a candelabra on the bridge. There are 4 candelabras that are surrounded by statues of cupids with aquatic creatures at their feet. Although they share the same theme, the cupids and aquatic creatures/sea monsters are not identical.
image credit - EUtouring.com
image credit - EUtouring.com

The back of the nymph and the keystone sculpture facing the water
The bridge is flanked by two nymph reliefs centered on both sides of the bridge facing the water  –  nymphs from the River Seine (France) on one side and nymphs from the River Neva (Russia) on the opposite side.
Nymphs of the Seine

Sculptures On The Bridge

Statue of Nereide (water spirit)
image credit - EUtouring.com
Enfant Au Crabe (child with crab)

There is a crab where the child is kneeling, hence its name

Fillette a la Coquille (Girl with a shell)
image credit - Myrabella (Wikimedia Commons)
8 years and this video still gives me goosebumps! Now, even more!


What is the most beautiful bridge you have seen?

Musings Of A Tired Mummy