Wednesday, September 30, 2009


We have orientation tomorrow, right now I'm at the youth hostel where they booked us all for the night before orientation - lots of people, not all in Nice proper of course. Mostly Americans, mostly girls, pretty much as expected. I actually haven't met all that many people who will be staying in Nice, but there's about 80 people, so I'm sure there are more.

Good news is that I think the apartment is ours and we can move in tomorrow, although the lady was stressing me out with French On The Phone, so there's possibly some kind of hidden snags that I don't know about... As predicted, Lisa was not keen, so we found another girl at orientation, Kelly, who was straight off the plane and only too happy to jump into a ready-made apartment! I will be very relieved to be somewhere settled so I hope there's no sudden pitfall. Fingers crossed.

Nothing else really interesting - oh I visited the library and it looks kinda like an old secondhand bookshop, but seems okay. She basically just said come in whatever and do whatever, so we'll see what my schedule is like... She seems to think that I would have to train again in France to work here as a librarian, so that plan might be out the window :(

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


So today was once again pretty much consumed with flat hunting. At least today we got out to view somewhere - on the minus side, it's about a 25 minute bus ride from the centre, but there are a lot of pluses - it's a nice place, in a quiet suburban area with some shops and so forth around, and it's completely furnished with everything you could want - oven, microwave, dishwasher, TV, washing machine, linen, cutlery, crockery, beds etc. etc. And enough wine glasses to entertain in style! There are three little balconies, which is nice, with a pretty nice view from the living room, which will be someone's bedroom, but it's closed off with a door, so that's okay. There is a table in the kitchen so there'll still be a bit of a common area outside people's rooms. So I think it's a good deal. We could keep searching forever for the perfect, cheap, central place, but to be honest, I just want to get somewhere and have a place to call my own again. Lisa, the German girl, seems less keen on the whole idea, so we'll see how it goes tomorrow at any rate... But I just don't want to keep moving (we have to leave this hostel tomorrow because they've booked us in somewhere else - according to Google, the absolute WORST hostel in the entire world! - for orientation) and then I would love to be able to move in somewhere instead of having to haul my bags again. And stop paying hostel fees, of course. Plus the landlady seems really nice etc. etc. etc.

Anyway, as they say in France, on verra... Stand by in other words..

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mon premier jour a Nice

Me at my new place of work! I suppose I shouldn't really put identifiable stuff up, but oh well... you can't google a photo

My lycee

The lycee where I'll be working

The beach in front of the Quai des Etats Unis

Fountain in Place Massena, a big square in central Nice not far from my lycee

So yesterday was my first full day in Nice, got quite a late start (damn you free wifi!) and then headed out on the 20 minute or so walk from the hostel to the centre of town, stopping for a pain au chocolat on the way, miam miam!

Basically we just walked around for a bit, went past my school which looks huge and gorgeous and is so centrally located! Quite excited on that! If my contact person still doesn't answer me, I might just rock up and see what the score is...

Anyway, the real job of the day was watching the F1, and Emily even came with me despite having no clue about F1! I had been tipped off to a bar that might show it, and indeed it did - very pleasant sitting outside in the heart of Nice, a block back from the water in a busy square, nursing our glasses of rose for the whole race. Downside there was no commentary and kept getting distracted chatting to Emily, so missed half of what happened - I checked later and heaps went on that I had no clue about!

In the evening, we cooked dinner and then looked for apartments, we found a few agencies that charge reasonable fees (some charge an entire month's rent, I balk slightly at paying 300-400 euros) and we're going to just go down to the agencies today, and thus avoid French On The Phone and maybe get something done straight away. I know I said I would find French flatmates, but Emily's really nice and this might be way less stressful, we'll see how it goes today. A German girl who's been in touch with Emily is meeting us too, I think she might be teaching at my school as well, along with a couple of other schools.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nice to be here

After a decent night's sleep, I feel slightly more qualified to give you the rundown on my recent movements. Can't really comment on Nice yet, just took a taxi to the hostel yesterday and then we just went down the road for dinner last night. A big plus is that all the people I've met so far (being taxi driver, hostel guy and a couple of waiters) have spoken French to me, both at the beginning of conversations and in response to me talking, which is brilliant! Normally in tourist places like this, they start out in English half the time, and if not, they switch to English as soon as you open your mouth, even though I can clearly order off a menu or whatevs. I would be lying if I said I understood absolutely everything or could remember every bit of vocab I ever need, but I feel this is a good start and my brain is getting back into the French swing of things! We will be heading more into tourist-ville today to check out the F1, hopefully at least, (Emily, the American assistant at my hostel has kindly volunteered to come watch, despite having no clue about F1!) so we'll see if people still speak French to me there.

Probably won't be able to get much more done today, as it's Sunday and practical places close. Emily asked me to come along with her and a German assistant who's arriving shortly to look at apartments next week, and I admit, it's tempting... I know I was adamant about living with French people, but I think I will at least tag along and see what happens. I *do* want to live with Frenchies so I don't just slip into that anglophone-ghetto lifestyle, but it would be nice living with people I know I get along with, and are going through the same things as me. So we'll see. Plus everyone I contact about apartments tells me to ring them, which drives me nuts because I always explain I don't have a French phone yet, but more importantly (I don't tell them this part though) I hate/am terrified of speaking French on the phone - it's so much harder than in person and I was scarred for life by my experiences in Chamonix.. How hard is it to set up an appointment by email, anyway? I suppose it's a cultural difference, because not ONE person has suggested anything by email, or answered any of my emailed questions, they all just say "we can discuss that when you call me". Sigh.

Anyway, I should think about leaving my room at some point today! Last night Emily mentioned getting breakfast if I wanted - it's a real relief to have met someone that's nice, easy to talk to, around my age, and as she said last night - normal! My first friend in Nice :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Nice

Okay I'm pretty exhausted, but in Nice safe and sound, had a nice dinner and drinks with a lovely fellow assistant who is staying at the same hostel - she even volunteered to come watch the F1 with me tomorrow, no arm-twisting required! Nice to think that inter-city moves are no longer required, even if there is at least one installment of suitcase-shifting to come... Will update further tomorrow (hostel has free wifi!) Ahh and bless the private room! xx

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pre-Nice musings

Last full day in Italy, I'm sad to be leaving and sad not to be on holiday any more! It's been great relaxing, especially the past 5 or so days where I've had nothing BUT relaxation firmly on the agenda. All the cliches are true - the food is great, the people are nice, the streets are full of tourists and historic buildings... It's been lovely being in a not-so-touristy place, Genoa, where people even speak Italian to me, and STILL speak Italian to me even after I stutter out something like "una picolla acqua minerale naturale, per favore e basta" - so many superfluous syllables, it's like the opposite of French... The restaurant where I ate dinner tonight was the first I've been in in Italy with no English menu, and while it took some pondering (uovo is so easy once you click, but it took a while) I got there.

I must digress for a sec, while the conversation has turned to food, on the subject of focaccia. I have discovered that the delicious quiche-thingy-on-pizza-base that I raved about the other day was evidently a focaccia. I had another similar one for lunch the other day, made with pesto - also delish! And today for dinner I had a focaccia that looked at first glance exactly like a pizza, albeit one coated with soup-esque quantities of cheese sauce, but turned out to be two thin layers of pastry with a cheesy filling inside and more cheese sauce etc. on the top. For those not in the know, if you ask for focaccia in New Zealand you'll get a hunk of bread with rock salt and olive bits on top - I've never actually enjoyed it, but thought I'd try focaccia here because it is one of the regional specialities. As indicated, COMPLETELY different and totally delicious!

Anyway, today I headed out pretty late and went to the Museum of the Sea, which I fondly believed would be packed with tales of Genoese maritime exploration, trade, derring-do, plague ships, Columbus and the like... It turned out to be very focused on life at sea, the design of ships over the years, etc. Yawn! AND most of the explanations were in Italian, so I couldn't even be bothered pretending to take an interest in this old sextant or that old periscope... It had its informative bits in the explanatory panels (in English) which were provided to explain the theme of each room, but since I already thought the 10 euro entrance fee was awfully steep before I even got in, I was rather disappointed.

I made up for it with an afternoon of free activities (after a cheap lunch of regional trofie pasta - like fat, wriggly little worms - with pesto, in a spot perfect for Genovese people-watching) followed by some wandering around, an abortive trip to the central post office (it ran some sort of ticket system to force aberrant Italians to queue, which alarmed me slightly so that I decided to delay sending postcards until I can reach the familiar haven of La Poste in Nice), and a spot of reading/sunbathing by the fountain in Piazza Ferrari.

So... Nice tomorrow. Have just been making a to-do list (open a bank account - horror!, find a cellphone provider - confusion!, contact people about apartments - crushing exposure of inadequate francais!) so all-in-all, feeling pretty stressed right about now. I just emailed another assistant about grabbing a drink tomorrow night though, and turns out we're staying at the same hotel! Fate! I looked back over our messages, and turns out she actually told me that before I changed my reservation, but I swear, didn't take it in and it's complete coincidence... Feel like a right stalker though! It will be nice to have a friendly face to have a drink with on my first night in Nice though, especially since it's a Saturday night!

All the usual worries are bubbling up, paramount of which are the search for accommodation, the related concern that my money will run out, and anxieties about teaching, given I hated it back in Russia. I'm trying to calm myself and think about the positives - it's the south of France, if I hate it that much I can count the days between the 6 weeks of paid holidays we get during our 7 month contract, which will likely include Christmas in England with Mum & Dad, followed by them visiting me back in Nice (in term-time, but still), and the fact that I am looking forward very much to being settled somewhere and not have to turn up to a restaurant every night and ask for a lonely tavola per una (table for one). Oh, and being able to speak French again! I plan to be resolute like a mighty oak in the inevitable face of people trying to treat me like a stupide touriste and speak English to me. It will be a real joy to be able to communicate with (relative) ease again (as long as they don't put me on the phone!) and I'm really hoping to cement my command of French this time round.

Anyway, this is another long one in my prodigious output, I often wonder if anyone except Mum has the patience... so will leave it at that. Je vous verrai a Nice alors!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Genoa photos

Free internet with no-one waiting = catch up on uploading photos! Photos from the Cinque Terre and Rome below, and a blog post on my day today in Genoa. Enjoy if you have a long attention span!
Oh and PS I forgot to say in my Genoa post before that in one of the alleys I came across what could only have been 3 prostitutes, at about 3 in the afternoon! Well, okay, 3 prostitutes or 3 ladies who lunch in fishnets, heels and lingerie... Good old port cities eh?

A soldier on the John the Baptist reliquary

The be-ringed fingers of a reliquary of St Anne's hand

Shrink-wrapped Bible figurines! Impress your friends! Collect the whole set! In case you can't tell, these are actually life-sized figures, in plastic bags for reasons unknown. Jesus in a massive condom?

A lion on the John the Baptist casket. They really seem keen on their lions in Genoa

A close-up of a scene on the John the Baptist thingy - it's incredible how much detail and feeling they got into these figures! I was really very impressed.

The John the Baptist reliquary or whatever it is - the shape mimics the Milan Duomo, which you can scroll down for a photo of if you so choose...

The platter on which John the Baptist's head was supposedly offered up to Herod (ceramic head later addition)

There was this exhibition on how the word jeans came from Genoa and they invented it, which was news to me because I'd always heard the denim = de Nimes version of events. I think, though, that the cloth denim is indeed from Nimes and what Genoa is claiming is the typical blue dye. Evidence of which in this old cloth. If anyone wants to run with this as the next denim fashion trend, I expect some credit!

The supposed holy grail, brought back from Caesarea on the Crusades and later broken by the marauding French under Napoleon. Not particularly impressive, or even grail-like, I must say...

The Duomo in Genoa

I don't claim to know much about lions, but I know that the lion on the left is DEFINITELY going "eh-heh!" however much he may think he's roaring

Columbus's house

Inside the Duomo

One of Genoa's typical narrow alleys

Cinque Terre photos

A *lot* of photos below, and these are just a small sample of all the ones I took! V hard to resist when it's so gorgeous!

WC? NOT HERE! On the Monterosso-Vernazza path

The view from the top of the Corniglia steps

On the Via dell'Amore

View of Vernazza coming in from Monterosso

View of Vernazza from the other side, coming from Corniglia

Sunset at Manarola train station

Partway up the Corniglia steps and more to come!

Ships pass on the Golfo dei Poete - Gulf of Poets

The sea! The sea!

A sampling of the million and one hostel rules - Basil Fawlty would love the place!

Riomaggiore from the sea

Shot of the path between Corniglia and Vernazza

Monterosso al Mare, part-way up my cliff ascent

Street in Monterosso

Me, just before hitting Vernazza - not too sweaty

Mao pops! I also took a picture of Stalin Gelateria, for my Cinque Terre salute to Communist dictators series, but I seem to have neglected to put it on my memory stick, so you'll just have to use your imagination I'm afraid

View of Manarola from the sea (the town I stayed in)

Manarola again

This is basically to show that I was high up, and I climbed up there, and am awaiting virtual pats on the head and to be told that I'm ever so good...

Sign proving how many steps there are up to Corniglia

View of Corniglia from the sea

The town of Corniglia - particularly proud of this photo, the way it looks like the photo of the town is acutually itself a photo sort of tucked in to the frame of the wall, if you know what I mean...

View of the coast

The church by the sea at Vernazza

View from the boat

And another one

Rome photos

View from the top of the Spanish steps

The crowd looks on in wonder as some dudes clean out the Trevi Fountain...

The Trevi Fountain, in swing

View of the Tiber

The ubiquitous SPQR - Senatus Populusque Roma - the Senate and the people of Rome...

Spanish steps - underwhelming

Miaows in the ruins!

Looking across the Circus Maximus to the ruins on the Palatine. For some reason those flat-topped trees and ruins always make me think of Israel...

A liffant for my Dad to add to his virtual herd

Eyes without a face... in Santa Maria di Trastevere or whatever it's called

Pope Creepius I in St Peter's

A self-portrait by the Tiber

Looking down the Appian Way