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Dunkirk--the Movie
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I just saw the movie "Dunkirk".  If you have not seen it yet, go.  Go now--before it leaves the silver screen and you are forced to watch it on DVD.  You need to see it on a very large screen because the cinematography is just so incredible.  You actually feel like you are in a dogfight between a Spitfire and a Messerschmidt.  You actually feel like you are with the soldiers and sailors as their ship is hit with torpedoes and is keeling over and killing thousands.  

Of course, the film is about the real evacualtion of 330,000 British soldiers and about 130,000 French, Belgian, and Dutch soldiers in late May and early June of 1940.  The German army had completely surrounded the Allies and it looked like the end was near.  It really honestly looked like the end of civilization.  In fact, if you had been an impartial observer back then, you would have had to conclude that the evil empire of the Nazis were going to extinguish Western Civilization and conquer the world.  They looked that unstoppable.

Christopher Nolan, the director, masterfully plays with your mind and creates a feeling of utter hopelessness and doom:  You constantly hear in the background one of two things--either the ticking of a clock (illustrating that time is running out) or the faint scream of a German warplane as it begins its dive upon helpless soldiers and sailors.  

I looked at some background info on the film.  Those scenes on the beach?  Well, they were filmed on the ACTUAL beach at Dunkirk!  And those little fishing boats, trawlers, yachts, and ferries that came to the rescue?  Ha!  Some of them in the film were actually at the real rescue at Dunkirk 77 years ago!  No kidding!  They have been perfectly preserved all these years and brought out just for the movie!  

You need to see the movie.  Especially bring the kids (about age 12 and up would be good).  I do not remember hearing a single cuss word.  It is riveting, intense, and action packed, teaches real history (something kids don't get too much of these days).  

You'll leave the theatre saying "God save the king!" and singing a line or two from "Rule Brittania!"  

Monday, July 31, 2017, 10:39 PM

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By Dr. Jeff Sanders

I guess I am always amazed at how some people (usually those living in Europe) can be fluent in multiple languages.  I have studied several ancient and a few modern ones, but I am not "fluent" in any of them.  As I try to translate Hebrew or Greek, I still need a lexicon by my side.  So, I really admire people who are completely at home in another language.  

Such was the case of many of the French Canadians we encountered in Montreal.  We would walk into a store and be greeted with a hearty "bonjour!". I would say it right back to them, thinking I said it exactly the way they said it, accent and all.  Darn it, they would catch me every time, knowing that I was English-speaking.  And could almost see a little "switch" go off in their head, and they would immediately start talking to me in perfect English!!!  

I think the craziest thing I saw was a Middle Eastern woman who was the clerk at a souvenir shop.  She spoke to her husband in Arabic or Persian or something like that, then switch to French with a customer, then without taking a breath she spoke to me in flawless English!!

Dang, how do they do that?

Americans really are "sheltered" from conversing in other languages. And that is a real shame.

Maybe someday I'll get that good in French and Italian.  In the meantime, I had better keep practicing!

Sunday, July 30, 2017, 07:53 PM

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Chez Thony
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

Sometimes, the happiest events are the ones you don't expect.  Such was our experience in Montreal with a restaurant called "Chez Thony".  Alice and I had walked for miles, uphill from the downtown area to go see a spectacular looking church known as "the Oratory" (it truly is an amazing structure).  Well we explored the entire church and admired the beauty of it and it's surrounding gardens.  But all that walking made us mighty hungry.  

As we were walking down the main street near the church (Cote-Des-Niege Road) I saw a sign: "Chez Thony".  It advertised (in French) Mediterranean food, and some other cuisine I could not figure out.  We love Mediterranean food so we walked in.

The place was beautifully decorated, and it was clean as a whistle.  I put my limited French to use and ordered some dishes.  Mine had "boeuf" in it, which of course means "beef" so I guessed I could not go wrong. (It was called "toufee' de legumes au boeuf". It's a very good sign in a restaurant when you order your meal and it takes about 20 minutes to put it on your table.  That means they are making it fresh and from scratch!  (I hate American fast food.)

The food arrived...and oh my was some of the BEST food I have ever put in my mouth!  I have never tasted flavors like this.  It was all so delicious.  Alice felt the same way about her sandwich, veggies, and french fries.  So, once more in my limited French I asked our waitress (whose name was Isabelle) what was in my dish that tasted so good.  She graciously tried to explain in her limited English that it was beef and plaintains and something called "aubergines" and "chou".  I had no idea what those words meant.  So she left to go look up the English translation.  Isabelle came back and wrote down in her beautiful handwriting that "aubergines" meant "eggplant" and "chou" is cabbage!

Hahahahaha!!!  I explained to her in half French and half English I don't like eggplant or plantains (cabbage is ok)....but somehow they had made all of it work together to be absolutely scrumptious!!!  She seemed pretty happy to hear that.  Then Chef Thony himself came out and asked me if the food was "tres bien".  "Oui!!  Tres bien! Tres bien!  Delicieux!" I told him I loved his restaurant and the food and the service so much I would write a whole blog about it (and I gave him APR's website address to look for it the following week).  The service was excellent, Thony is an amazingly good chef, the food was just what we needed (and priced just right)...and I felt like I made some new friends. As we were leaving the people in the kitchen were waving to us and saying "bye bye" in English.  What sweet people.

Oh, what was that word I could not figure out on the sign?  It was (in English) "Antilles".  Chef Thony and his staff were all from Haiti and their menu is both Caribbean and Medierranean.  I'll be back.  I can't wait to try the couscous next time!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017, 09:03 PM

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My Wife and I-- the Foodies
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

When we travel, we love to sample the delicious food of the different cultures we encounter.  You can really find out how people think and what is important to them when you sit and eat what they eat.  It's best when you're invited to someone's house for a home cooked meal, but if you're new in town-- the next best thing is just to wander into a restaurant and hope for the best.

And if you are in Montreal, pretty much any restaurant you wander into will be a treat.  The Quebecois love to eat, and real good food is all around.

Apparently the French Canadians love their coffee.  Coffee shops are everywhere.  Espresso and cappuccino....pretty good there!  (The Italians had better watch it...the Quebecois are catching up.) Their pastries and baked goods are just as incredible to look at as they are to eat.  Just one bite of some chocolate chip cream filled eclaire and I was in heaven! I was told their bagels are wonderful...smaller but sweeter than our's.  Unfortunately I did not get one.  Maybe next time!

The people of Montreal also love good hearty meaty food.  I guess that is to keep them warm during their brutal winters.  We had their smoked meat sandwich (their version of a Reuben).  The cheese was melted on the outside of the bread.  Man was that good!  

And they make "poutine".  French fries, covered in brown gravy, then cheese curds piled on top of that.  Then they piled pulled pork barbeque on top of that!  Hmmm.  Well.  Kinda "heavy" for me, but it did taste good.  I can see it would help keep hard working people warm in a blizzard.

The best part of it all, however, was the happiness of the people who served us in the restaurants, and the obvious pride they took in their city and culture.

Monday, July 24, 2017, 08:06 PM

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Montreal Canada, What a Great City!
By Dr. Jeff Sanders

We just came back from a trip to Montreal.  My wife and I like to travel to really different places, experience different cultures, and sample really different food.  We've been to Canada a few times (Niagara Falls, Toronto) but never into Quebec.  So, I've learned enough French to be dangerous, and we struck out for the city.  

What a great place!  First of all, Montreal reminded us of New York is actually an island in the St. Lawrence River, much like Manhattan.  It has plenty of the modern tall buildings and all the exciting hustle and bustle of New York.  However, it's not nearly as crowded (about 7 million people less).  Very clean place and very safe.  We walked about 10-12 miles every day to see historical sites and other interesting places and never once felt threatened.

And the French Canadians throughout Montreal we're just the kindest, most helpful people! I would try my limited French, but right after I would say "bonjour" or "ou est le sale de bain?" ("where is the bathroom?") they immediately knew I was not French Canadian and would speak perfect English to us.  (That was slightly disappointing because I really wanted to try out my French, but they were just being helpful to wandering tourists.) Wherever we went, the Quebecois were so patient and willing to tell us about the best places to visit and restaurants to sample their local cuisine.  Some of the most fascinating places to see are: the old town right along the river ("Vieux Montreal" looks just like a 17th century town out of Europe), the Botanical Gardens (probably the most beautiful and incredible gardens I have ever seen), and the Oratory of St. Joseph (a magnificent looking Catholic church built on one of the highest point in the city...not far from their version of Central Park-- "Mount Royal Park").  

We saw so much else (and I read just about every historical placque in the city), but the best part was just talking to the people.  We've never had a bad day in Canada.

Sunday, July 23, 2017, 05:52 PM

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Past Posts

Chez Thony
My Wife and I-- the Foodies
Montreal Canada, What a Great City!
Tolkien, Lewis, Aeneas, and Paul
Joan of Arc
The Suffering and Triumph of Boethius
Hildegard of Bingen
Western Europe's Deadly Paralysis

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