CanoeVibes with Anny Osabutey: a slice of Strasbourg


In the middle of Alsace’s farmlands in France, a sea of Poppy flowers lures passersby onto itself. The famous flower that has become a symbol of remembrance for soldiers who fought in wars that snuffed out their breath, stood in the heart of thousands of a lush green vegetation. Looking innocent and flapping its head, thanks to the direction of the wind, the red flowers provided a serene scene for first time visitors making their way into Strasbourg.

The allure was so strong my two sons could not contain their excitement. I suggested to my wife we pull over, wander in the fields and later head into the apartment. But thought it will be ideal for us to get our bags out of the car, get the kids to use the bathroom and then we head out. I agreed with her. They asked why. We offered them an explanation.

Not sure they understood but there was no protest.  The drive from the fields to the apartment was about 10 minutes. We pulled over infront of the apartment for the night. Our host, Marie, an amazing French woman with little English-speaking skills to her name (our French was all over the place, but we got by with the language app on our phones), welcomed us.

Her son, about six years old, was in tow.  He had a blonde hair. His eyes were bright and engaging. He wore a replica jersey of Paris Saint Germain; the reigning league champions in the elite division of the French league. At the back of the jersey was the name of Presnel Kimpembe, a centre back. I asked him why not Mbappe on the back of his shirt. He offered a wry smile and darted off into their apartment.

Maybe he did not want to hear Mpabbe’s name, considering the circumstances surrounding his move to Real Madrid, I whispered.  The main window in our room overlooked the green vegetation. They were mostly farmlands. I stood there for some minutes. I had flashbacks of some of the Ghanian mining towns I visited, and the scale of terror inflicted on the vegetation.

Sometimes one wonders the level of greed in the veins of the so-called high and mighty in our society, who continue to ruin the environment for the now and the future, if that secures them a lifetime wealth acquisition and opulence. Who cares about galamsey, when there is money to be made.  The boys had a swim, got back into their clothes and we headed to see the Poppy flowers.

We pulled over in front of other vehicles whose occupants were already on the field, taking photos. I got out of the car, unbuckled the boys and marched them to fields. They just took off before I could even get them ready. They roamed around the fields, almost interfering with a photographer who had come there to do some work. Another half of the fields, a female photographer, wearing faded blue jeans, brown khaki long sleeve shirt, and a blue converse, was busy working her camera. The subject was a young French couple. She directed them as to how to pose. She then clicked away. “Un autre” I heard her tell the couple in French. We also did our own shoot.

We found a nearby park for the children to play. After almost an hour jumping from ziplines to swings, their energy levels dropped. Back in the apartment, we had a light dinner and retired to bed.

We left the apartment on the Sunday morning, after breakfast. We said our goodbyes to the smiling Marie and her son.  We hit the road, zigzagging through the remainder of Alsace’s enthralling farmlands, to Strasbourg. The Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg was our first port of call. The weather great. Hundreds of tourists had poured onto the city to participate in various activities, including a visit to the cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic art. Construction is said to have started in 1015 and completed in 1439.

Despite the Sunday mass at the time, tourists still queued to feast their eyes on the aesthetics.  At the main entrance are four French military officers armed to the teeth.  Their red beret was slanted to the left. Their eyes were hidden behind sunglasses. They scanned the crowd to fish out miscreants with high testosterone to cause trouble. We managed to make our way into the auditorium.  The mass was conducted in French. I managed to take some photos of the detailed architecture. I later pulled out my phone, placed it next to a speaker to record the benediction.

Outside of the cathedrale, different activities were taking place. A man hawking Strasbourg designed merchandise walked through the crowd with the hope of getting a customer. In the far distance, a French lady serenades bystanders with a harp. Dressed in baggy jeans and thick grey jacket, a nose ring to compliment her artistic looks, she caressed the chords with enormous patience.

Anyone moved by her performance dropped some euros in appreciation. She would then look up and say “Merci”, as she progressed to the next piece. She devoted the last performance eulogizing Strasbourg’s enchanting medieval history of imposing architecture, cuisine and multiculturalism.

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