95: More on Mulhouse

Hundreds of diners in Mulhouse's street cafes and not a single laptop in sight.

We had to leave Switzerland to get to Mulhouse, France, but this was not always a necessity. From 1515 to 1648, Mulhouse, then a free republic, was “an associate” of Switzerland, and did not formally join France until it went through some alterations by over-riding treaties with pretty names (Westphalia) and in 1798 voted itself into France during the early stages of the French Revolution. Basically, the residents said if there’s going to be guillotining, we want to be sure to be on the right side of the blade.

This kind of history always fascinates me, because it is a reminder that Europe is as tribal as Afghanistan, Africa and the scarier parts of Asia, not to mention the American aboriginal population. Yet somehow, France, Germany, Switzerland and the rest all managed to cobble themselves into nations and organize themselves to a degree where they were able to overwhelm other ‘nations’ that had less control over their tribalistic qualities.

We thought the Swiss and the Germans were serious about chocolate, but Mulhouse's chocolatiers take it to a new level. Do not miss the opportunity to try the local creme-filled chocolates. Ooo la la!

But back to Mulhouse: Is it worth the visit? Yes, it is, especially if you love museums, most of which I avoided due to my aforementioned intense allergy to boredom. This is the fault of my early education which was packed with field trips to museums where we mostly stood around in large packs waiting for a guide to finish explaining to us the importance of weaving in ancient populations. It was fine for a person so inclined toward textile history, but that is not for everyone, especially not for a bunch of eight-year-olds.

And while you are there be sure to taste the goodies from its numerous chocolate and pastry shops. They might be more responsible for the existence of the French national character than any past armed conflicts. The ice cream is not as good as Italy’s, but it is still delicious and proof that if the French understand anything, it is how to treat cream, sugar and all the good that flows from these ingredients.

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Eeny, meeny, miny moe

Mitt Romney, going for the gusto.

A special beauty is attached to living overseas, and that beauty is the avoidance of regularly repeating national outrages, namely elections and occasionally referendums.

We were happy to abscond to the Deep South during Quebec’s separation referendum from the mother ship Canada. It was a riveting time, covered in-depth in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in a three-line story buried deep in the world news section. That was exactly enough coverage to suit us.

Harper knocks the Liberals right off their high chair.

America was not fussed about any Canadian fissures, partly because they were obsessed with Cochrane, Kardashian and Simpson, and I don’t mean the musician, the gown-sheathed Kardashian descendants or the hapless but lovable cartoon Simpsons.

Romney likes to point.

Being down south, where there was some secessionist flavor in the earlier century, led our American friends to puzzle over our nation’s leaders’ lax attitude toward the separatists. Why does Canada put up with it? they wondered.

Here is why: It is endlessly amusing, especially when the northern natives volunteered to lop off the top two-thirds of Quebec in their own separating-from-the-separatists bid. Quebec roared, but the rest of Canada sat back smugly, trying not to say, “So, how do you like it?”

And now that the U.S. is deep in primary season, the usual grumblings are burbling about leaving the country should (insert political candidate name here) get (re)elected.  I can assure them that it is fun to leave the country in a snit, but the problem is who will take them.

I did not know my own country's official opposition leader until I looked it up just now. Ignorance is bliss. This is not to diss the NDP. This woman, whoever she is, looks like a very nice person.

This is why it is good to not be around during election/primary season. TMZ posted this 'topless' photo of Newt Gingrich asserting it was reason enough to not vote for him. It is reason enough to not pay attention to TMZ, and its adolescent (albeit lucrative) version of election coverage. It is not the politicians that annoy us. It is the media. Okay - some politicians do annoy us, but not as much as TMZ and Sean Penn.

It surprises some people to learn this, but showing up at another country with the intention to stay past their regular tourist-trap allowance can attract the attention of bureaucrats, the world’s version of bullies-with-briefcases.

This comes up now, because tomorrow Dave and I head down to renew our visas, and if there should be any hiccup, we could end up with an escort to the airport, which would be kind of nice as I’m sure the helpful Swiss officers would lend a hand with the luggage.

That is okay with us. We have already missed Canada’s federal election and as far as I can tell, there won’t be another for four years.

*Note: I do not own the rights on any of these photos. Relax vigilant editors, I am not making any money off of them.

Not THIS Kardashian.

THIS Kardashian.