Arts and Culture

Art Around Town (Metz, France)

After taking four days off to recover from the Trail des Passerelles, the Ninja Turtle ventured outside for her first run as the weather was just too darn nice to stay indoors. Her quads are still incredibly sore from the downhills so it was slow going; she kept to a route close to home (just in case she needed to cut the run short from too much pain) which meant sticking to within the city.

Now that Europe is thrown into the height of summer, there are endless activities and free entertainment lined up. Metz Plage started two days ago; that’s the “urban beach” where a whole pile of sand is dumped somewhere to re-create a beach atmosphere for those who live only about 8 hours from the closest real beach.

There’s currently a series of open air art exhibitions displayed in various venues too – gardens seem to be a favourite exhibition spot. So as the Ninja Turtle shuffled towards the end of her easy 5-miler, she chanced upon this pretty cool series:

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Arts and Culture, Travel

It’s Summer in Europe – Festivals!!!

OK, so for about ten months a year, life in this corner of Europe is cold and bleak, characterised by grey skies, gusty gales and the type of rain that conspires to keep people indoors. Nobody goes outside unless they absolutely have urgent business to attend to, and even then, they stomp around with a miserable look of despair and reluctance, burdened by too many layers of clothes, determined to go back indoors as soon as possible.

But for two glorious months or so, everything changes. The sun comes out in full force, and the streets fill with folks with shortened hemlines, smiles and a swing in their step. The longer days also mean that one still has plenty of time to stroll the parks or hang out for cocktails after a full day at work. Best of all, summertime means one thing for the duo – festivals.

Stalking the streets in search for art.

Stalking the streets in search for art.

GodzillaPin is a festival freak. Back in their Adelaide days, the poor chap literally lost his mind in Mad March; between WOMADelaide, the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the Clipsal 500 (not to mention all the other events in the regions) all happening during peak surfing season, GodzillaPin desperately wanted to believe he could split himself up to be in 10 different places at the same time. It was GodzillaPin who’d cultivated the Ninja Turtle’s enthusiasm for festivals – it’s not to say that she doesn’t enjoy spending a lazy summer day reclined on the grass with a glass of cooler wine listening to amazing groovy beats, it’s just that she was never really raised to appreciate life this way.

So, the weekend started on Friday evening with the 6th edition of Hop Hop Hop!, the international open air street theatre in Metz. Over three days, various theatre troupes performed in public spaces, absolutely free of charge. More than just theatre, there was also music concerts, marching bands, little scenes, and surprise performances where people rendez-vous at a particular time and place with no idea what they’re going to watch. It’s all good fun, and free!

Qualité Street putting up a musical/acrobatics performance at Place St Louis - according to the duo, it was the best performance of the evening.

Qualité Street putting up a musical/acrobatics performance at Place St Louis – according to the duo, it was the best performance of the evening.

Here’s a short clip from the beginning of the performance by Qualité Street. For those who find themselves in Europe this summer and wish to catch their performances, here is their touring schedule.

The same weekend, there were the Festival World MeYouZik and the Rock Um Knuedler Festival, both free and open air performances in Luxembourg. They were highly billed events, with the likes of Winston McAnuff and Anastacia being the drawcards to the respective events. GodzillaPin had initially assumed that both the world and rock festivals were happening concurrently, but it turned out to be world music on the Saturday they showed up. This is just as well, as between the two genres, the Ninja Turtle prefers world music by a very large margin.

Debademba on the Lion Stage - their style of music is described as: Afrobeat, blues, with a nod at rock.

Debademba on the Lion Stage – their style of music is described as: Afrobeat, blues, with a nod at rock.

Next up was Playing for Change, not so much a band as a collective of musicians with the goal of Connecting The World Through Music.

Next up was Playing for Change, not so much a band as a collective of musicians with the goal of Connecting The World Through Music.

GodzillaPin came to this festival especially to watch Grandpa Elliot perform. That guy can really rock a harmonica.

GodzillaPin came to this festival especially to watch Grandpa Elliot perform. That guy can really rock a harmonica.

At the MeYouVillage, there were stands with information of non-profit organisations and non-government associations focusing on fundraising for various needy communities around the world. At the village, there were also some exotic foods and drinks on offer.

The Gangbé Brass Band performing at the MeYouVillage stage.

The Gangbé Brass Band performing at the MeYouVillage stage.

A short extract of the Gangbé Brass Band’s performance. It’s quite hard to describe the style of music but it’s a fusion of African beats with jazz/big brass band? At any rate, it was cool enough to get all the little kids off their bums and shaking their booties.

Winston McAnuff & Fixi on the Lion Stage. The programmes were running behind schedule and groups were starting a good half an hour after their scheduled performance times.

Winston McAnuff & Fixi on the Lion Stage. The programmes were running behind schedule and groups were starting a good half an hour after their scheduled performance times, but it was worth the wait.

The evening ended with the duo swinging to Alice Francis on the Holy Ghost Stage. The duo had first seen Alice Francis perform in Nancy back in 2013, and fell in love with the genre because of this amazing trio from Germany. They were enjoying the music so much they didn’t take any photos or videos, but here’s a clip from one of their better known songs.

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Arts and Culture, Food, Travel

Scenes from Bourgogne (and a French wedding)

Bourgogne, also known as Burgundy. Wine country!

Bourgogne, also known as Burgundy. Wine country!

Even the sculptures on the roundabouts celebrate the regional produce.

Even the sculptures on the roundabouts celebrate the regional produce.

Quaint little villages...

Quaint little villages…

A different style of architecture...

A different style of architecture…

And plenty of wine cellars to visit.

And plenty of wine cellars to visit.

Nuit St Georges, home of some amazing pinot noir and chardonnay...

Nuits St Georges, home of some amazing pinot noir and chardonnay…

Bourgogne (especially Beaune) is also known for an interesting architectural feature - the beautifully tiled roofs.

Bourgogne (especially Beaune) is also known for an interesting architectural feature – the beautifully tiled roofs.

Another regional specialty is cassis, or blackcurrants; Dijon produces crème de cassis, which is a liqueur added to wines when making a cocktail kir.

Another regional specialty is cassis, or blackcurrants; Dijon produces crème de cassis, which is a liqueur added to wines when making a cocktail kir. There is a Cassisium open for visits.

Sunday morning on the river Saône

Sunday morning run along the river Saône.

Chalon-sur-Saône lies in the south of Burgundy. It's the birthplace of photography.

Chalon-sur-Saône lies in the south of Burgundy. It’s the birthplace of photography.

A forest path perfect for running and cycling.

A forest path perfect for running and cycling.

GodzillaPin and the Ninja Turtle were invited to a wedding, and what a wedding it was!

Getting married in an abbey...

Getting married in an abbey…

Offering a bouquet to Mary, which is a tradition in this abbey.

Offering a bouquet to Mary, which is a tradition in this abbey.

Man and wife!

Man and wife!

A cute little wedding car

A cute little wedding car.

And a reception at a "domain".

And a reception at a “domain”.

Put your name on the Nutella so people know it's yours, and to keep their hands off!

Put your name on the Nutella jar so people know it’s yours, and to keep their hands off!

The wedding had a gorgeous pink and orange travel theme.

The wedding had a gorgeous pink and orange travel theme.

And look at dessert!

And look at dessert!

Partying hard, the French way.

Partying hard, the French way.

The boys...

The boys…

And the girls.

And the girls.

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Arts and Culture, Running, Travel

Running Along the Thread of Time

My shadow and I went for a run today
I said “Christopher, come out, let’s play!
It’s been too long since you last ran
You look quite tubby in fact, my man!”
Christopher nodded, so off we went
To tackle the first of many ascents
He broke no sweat, and kept up with ease
While my breath was visible as I wheezed

A silent world on a Saturday dawn
The sun kissed us as a new day is born
While the earth lay dormant, gefroren und weiß^
Encrusted in a shell of sparkling ice
Lone witnesses to such glorious beauty
Our hearts sang in silent harmony
Our feet shuffling to a joyful dance
Through a lost village in a corner of France

The winding road rose up to meet us
We tackled each hill with minimal fuss
Passing the ghosts of Quatorze-Dix-Huit*
Des cimetières, monuments et villages détruits **
How much of our lives we owe to the fallen
In this hour of peace, may they not be forgotten
We bowed our heads in respect as we passed
These little reminders – dead hands of the past

Four hours and forty minutes later
26 miles, we’d also run out of water
I was cramping badly in both my thighs
While the sun had vanished in the skies
The headwinds reached 50kph
A windstorm was slowly starting to rage
Christopher’d vanished, I was now alone
To make the final stretch back home

So I did the sane and responsible thing
I gave my better half a ring
“Come pick me up!” I shouted into the phone
While all around, the angry wind moaned
That night in bed, all stiff and sore
I thought of my shadow, I thought of war
I thought how I’m so undeservingly lucky
To have been born in the 21st century.

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Montfaucon d’Argonne, in the footsteps of the fallen of 1914.

^ frozen and white
* WWI (also known as The Great War, or 1914-1918)
** the cemeteries, monuments, and destroyed villages

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Arts and Culture, Food, Travel

A Visit to the annual Salon du Chocolat

Last weekend, the Ninja Turtle and GodzillaPin spent a day suffering from sugar overload. It’s that time of the year again, when the Salon du Chocolat comes to the Metz Exposition, and the duo went armed with 2 credit cards and plenty of shopping bags.

There were 60+ exhibitors at the Salon du Chocolat this year. Of course, as the name suggests, it’s a world of chocolate.

Each year, there is also a chocolate sculpture competition, as well as a fashion parade, where the models wear creations made with/of chocolate. The theme this year was Asia.

 

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Of course, it wasn’t ALL just chocolate. There were other types of confectionery on offer too.

One of the reasons for visiting a chocolate exposition, aside from tasting and buying chocolate of course, was that they got to speak with the experts. Two years ago, the duo had a nice chat with Mikael Azouz, who has won multiple international awards. This time, the duo chose to chin-wag with another chocolate master – Fabrice Dumay, the best chocolatier in Moselle.

M. Dumay was incredibly friendly, and knowledgeable. He explained to them how lecithin was used as an emulsifier, and consequently confectioners also cost-cut with this ingredient (by increasing lecithin by 1%, you can reduce cocoa butter by 10% in your recipe). He went into great detail explaining the various single origins, from Madagascar, to Sao Tome, to Venezuela, and the latest up-and-coming chocolate region in the world: Vietnam! Cocoa was first planted there 10 years ago, and harvest from the first 5 years were terrible, but they are slowly seeing improvements. The production, situated not far from the Mekong Delta, is currently very small-scale, and apparently 100% fair trade. M. Dumay also quickly briefed them on the crop to bean to bar process, and shared his favourite wine to pair with chocolate (if you must know, it’s the Modérato Nectar d’Automne Muscat from Casablanca).

 

All up, it was a fantastic excursion, and look at the bounty they lugged home that evening:

Just don't ask how much they spent on this (it's an eye-watering sum).

Just don’t ask how much they spent on this (it’s an eye-watering sum).

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Arts and Culture, Food, Travel

Love and Life: The Great Balancing Act

We’re one month into 2015, people. How’s the year been so far? For the Ninja Turtle, it’s been a whirlwind of travelling, work and training. After two months away in Australia and Singapore, she’s also been bouncing back and forth between Metz and Fromereville, not to say her brief stints in Paris and Frankfurt. Although her new job permits her to work from home, she’s still putting in anywhere between 7 to 9 hours a day, plus the few hours on weekends too, depending on how much needs to get done. As some readers may have also guessed, she’s stepped up her training this year, logging double the distance in her weekly mileage as she did this time last year.

Suddenly, the Turtle’s got to commit an extra ~10 hours a day to things she never did before, and still she’s only got 24 hours in a day. Between running, seeing the world, and doing a job she absolutely loves, her life is full to the eyeballs, and for that, she is grateful. It’s taken three long years to get it all together, which is why this weekend, she’s turning her attention back to someone who’s helped make it possible.

It’s taken time and a few loud and emotional conversations, but GodzillaPin’s finally adjusting to the new dynamics of the relationship (less home-baked cookies, slightly messier apartment, but a less anal-retentive Ninja Turtle who’s too tired to really give a damn about the small stuff anymore). Yes, with every change, no matter how positive and exciting, comes the need to adapt, and when one is in a relationship, these changes affect the other person too.

The run in the snow and ice last week led to a niggle in the Ninja Turtle’s right foot, so after 3 more training runs when the niggle made itself more and more apparent, the Turtle’s decided to take a whole week off training. Yup, ONE WHOLE WEEK of no running. No guilt for it either (hear that, buddy?) Why run a small problem into a big one, when taking a short break can avert a potential stress fracture or something worse? The Ninja Turtle learnt from her first marathon training, that if you insist on training through the pain, you eventually miss more important workouts. It’s a small compromise to make, missing the 28 miles in her cut-back week to run the 58 miles in the following build-up phase. At worst, she’ll lose a bit of fitness and gain a pound or two. At best, she’s not risking burn-out before the race.

Suddenly, with training out of the picture for a few days, she’s got TIME! And this weekend, she turned her gaze back to GodzillaPin, happy man. Saturday was spent shopping, eating, and strolling around town in the freezing cold, but the photo of the boathouse on the Moselle river made it totally worth it. They came home and made ground beef fajitas, guacamole, and a salad of corn, tomato and cucumbers for dinner, watched a really bad film, and fell asleep bitching to each other about how awful the movie was.

Sunday started with the most romantic gesture on GodzillaPin’s part – doing housework. OK to be fair, it was tidying up the basement a.k.a wine cellar, and they did it together, which made mucking in the dust actually kinda fun. Then, since it’s the first Sunday of the month (which means free entry to some museums in France), it was off to Nancy!

The Parc de la Pépinière was almost soulless in the dead of winter...

The Parc de la Pépinière was almost soulless in the dead of winter…

And yet, its emptiness just added a surreal charm to its beauty.

And yet, its emptiness just added a surreal charm to its beauty.

The museum they visited was the Musée des BeauxArts de Nancy, and they both agreed that it was by far their favourite Fine Arts museum among the many they’ve visited around Europe, and in their opinion, even better than the one in Dijon. The Ninja Turtle loved two things about this museum – the tableaux were enormous and added to the grandeur, AND the sequence of display started with the most recent art and moved back in time as one ascends the upper floors. Too often, museums start with antiquity, and by the time you reach the 18th century, you’re tired, need to pee, sit down and have a coffee, and you don’t care about anything that comes after Louis XIV.

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Then, it was off to a late lunch.

GodzillaPin (sporting his new 'stache) found a chic little bar for their "date"...

GodzillaPin (sporting his new ‘stache) found a chic little bar for their “date”…

It was supposed to be all romantic with flowers, candles and red wine...

It was supposed to be all romantic with flowers, candles and red wine…

But of course, a date is only as good as the food. So they ordered burgers. The Ninja Turtle's last burger was in Sydney with Sonic the Hedgehog on Melbourne Cup Day.

But of course, a date is only as good as the food. So they ordered burgers. The Ninja Turtle’s last burger was in Sydney with Sonic the Hedgehog on Melbourne Cup Day. She’s feeling more guilty about this than she is about missing her training, but damn, it was an awesome burger.

So that’s it, a weekend of investing some time and attention in the relationship. It’s a nice change from the routine of “how’s your day”, “we need to do our grocery shopping tomorrow”, “please lock the door behind you”, “don’t leave your clothes in a stinky pile on the floor we have a clothes basket for that” to hold hands and run in the snow, make silly remarks and crack stupid jokes, and indulge in the little pleasures of life like fine art and good (but oh so bad for you) food.

Do you feel guilty for missing a run, even if you’re sick or injured? Why?

Would you consider your partner a good friend too? How do you keep the flame strong in your relationship?

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