2013-01-24

Vineyards & Castles of France




For most of 2012, I was travelling and had the good fortune and opportunity of being in 8 countries (Germany, Hungary, India, Switzerland, France, Italy, Austria and Spain). One of the special pleasures of living near the border of Germany and Switzerland is the relative easy access to some of the neighboring countries. France, Italy and even Austria are only a few hours drive.



One of the highlights was a road-trip to Alsace, a small village known as the "foreign domain". Over 75 years, it exchanged ownership between Germany and France. It now belongs to France and is understood as being a very important region politically in the EU.

So here's a very small town that I never heard of before, but that no one should think has no power of its own. Alsace is also a commune and perhaps better known for all its 'famed' and historical castles. The most famous and largest is the King's Castle or the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg. It's probably the first thing you notice as you enter the village as it stands on an opposing mountain overlooking its world.


Like many castles I guess you could say it has seen its fair share of war, blood-shed and destruction. There are no clear details as to when the castle was built other than it first being mentioned in 1147. Perhaps during the years that lead to the 15th century it was peaceful and serene. By 1462, however, the castle had been attacked and burnt down. Following this it was abandoned for many hundreds of years. It was not until 1899 when a German Emperor of Wilhelm took it over to re-create a castle of the Medieval times. Ironically, he wanted to reconstruct the castle with the hope of reinforcing the unity between the Alsace citizens and Germany. After WWI the French took over the castle. However, the more fitting word 'confiscated' more accurately describes the turn of events. Given the long history of absence it is difficult to determine what really happened--when and how.

And again, like many castles it has been the inspiration for poets, writers and including Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty despite being overgrown and deserted. Since the castle was completely destroyed it has been criticized as being a 'fairy-tale' castle and because most of it was reconstructed to the taste of a German Emperor. Some facts include the Tower being 14 meters too high and a general over-emphasized link to German nostalgia.

As luck would have it the day we headed out it was incredibly foggy and raining. The last castle we visited we were in the same weather conditions. we started late in the hopes the fog would lift but when we arrived at the castle it was closed. Our visions of her are only from the outskirts. Determined not to make a trip in vain we drove back into the village and dined at a lovely French restaurant and hotel (Aux Ducs de Lorraine).

It's on the odd occasion that I drink a glass of wine. And I have to say it would have been  absurd not to and especially in this region of France! Alsace is a gorgeous scene of green that looks like endless vineyards. They specialize in dry and sweet wines, roses and reds. A nice, white (sweet but not too sweet) glass is perfect. The French also know how to dress a table with simple elegance---a white table cloth, silver cutlery and fine bone China.


And doing a balance pose proves I was there and not intoxicated, albeit a cheap date I am! 


The Journey So Far

Life is an adventure and yoga is the greatest one of all. Here I share my love of Yoga, travel, practice and becoming a part-time cook. My life adventures have taken me from growing up in Toronto to living and working in South Korea to studying in India, marriage and finally closing my Yoga school of 15 years.

What I can say so far is that I truly believe that it is necessary in life to let go of one dream in order for another to be born. This might be painful to do so but it is the only way to move forward. We often believe that if our original plan does not succeed it is the recipe for failure. But what if it is the door to something new and great? The horizon is wide and life is not a straight line. This is the way I see it and my journey so far. Having also recently given birth to my first child and at 43, it is another new beginning.


ME

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Heather Morton
is a perennial teacher and devoted student of yoga. Having made 18 extended trips to India she studies with her teachers annually. In 1997 she founded and directed The Yoga Way (TYW), Toronto's only school for 6-week yoga programs and not drop-in classes. For 15 years, TYW was a part of the growing Toronto yoga community and supported many charities by offering karma classes. As a teacher she holds many academic degrees including a BFA (Fine Arts in Theatre) and a Masters of Education. With a published thesis on Yoga for Children in School, her post-graduate work was a 2-year ethnographic project in the Indian school system. Heather has produced 2 dvds, meditation cds, a backbending manual and podcasts. Freedom of the Body DVD is the first of its kind as an instructional practice to the backbends of yoga. Heather has been featured in the Toronto Life magazine, The Globe & Mail, Yoga4Everybody and other on-line sources. She contributes to MindBodyGreen, Hello Yoga in Japan and Elephant Journal. She writes to inspire and share her experiences with others on yoga as a life's practice.
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