Thursday, January 28, 2010

The French girl's guide to winter dressing

Acquire a pair of calf- or knee-length boots, any colour is fine. Tuck your jeans into them. Now put on a plain, generic t-shirt. Anything will do - no-one will ever see your bottommost layer unless you're in the throes of passion in a particularly well-heated room. Possibly not even then, I haven't run all the appropriate tests. Add a cardigan, preferably grey. Now a heavy winter coat. Top with a chunky scarf looped in some sort of an artlessly stylish fashion that I can't replicate even though I'm pretty sure I loop my scarf along the same basic principles. If the temperature has dropped below the 'critical' zone of 15 degrees, you are entirely justified in adding a knitted hat and/or gloves to complete the ensemble.

The French boy's guide to winter dressing:
As above, except substitute shoes for boots and don't tuck your jeans into them. Ditch the cardigan - you, sir, are manly enough to face the cold with only a peacoat and a chunky scarf, also cunningly looped. If you want a bit of Fonz-esque je ne sais quoi, you may choose a leather jacket. For rebel chic, go with a ski jacket and beanie, and lose the scarf (too bourgeois). If at all possible, add a jaunty messenger bag to your outfit. A headband is an optional - but stylish - extra.

The old French man's guide to winter dressing:
Put on anything and add a flat cap and a querulous stare. Congratulations, you are now an old French man.

The old French woman's guide to winter dressing:
Put on weight. You starved yourself for 60 years, you deserve this.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


On Saturday I hopped on the bus to Menton for something to do... About a 1 1/4 hour trip, past Monaco, almost to the Italian border. Everything I've heard about Menton goes on about its "micro-climate" - supposedly the best in these parts with something ridiculous like 300 days of sunshine a year (which is why, amongst others, Katherine Mansfield went there to hopefully recover from TB). Anyway, so disappoint - it was pretty cold and windy and overcast. Stupid Menton.

But apart from that, I liked. Its old town was basically built up the side of the hill, which meant quite a few steps but some great views. It felt somehow more authentic than Nice's... I suppose fewer tourists, but just something about the narrow steep streets as well (although the streets are narrow and dingy in Nice as well). So I just wandered around for a while, in the old town and along the seafront. Eventually I found this wall that you can walk along right next to the sea, with the port area between you and the town - that was really pretty. And from this perspective, Menton looks *just* like the towns of the Cinque Terre (where I was in Italy) - after all, it's the same region really.

I went into a nice old church as well - it was quite sweet, this lady saw me impotently pushing at the door of the church across the square and called out to me that she was just about to open up the other church that she was evidently in charge of, so that was nice. It's always pleasant to meet French people who will go a little out of their way to help you, instead of watching you fail with glee...

There was a carnival on, so I satisfied my sudden craving for frites mmmm. I hardly ever get to have frites this time round, I miss northern France where a town square ain't a town square without a shack-esque friterie selling awesome chips in paper cones with ketchup and mayonnaise a-plenty.

After a couple of hours, it was time to head back. I think I repeatedly dozed off on the bus home, shame au. Unfortunately my camera was out of battery so no photos :( but I'll have to try to go back because I did really like the whole vibe of the place, and the beach actually had some sand, so if the micro-climate lives up to its name next time, that would be good.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Avignon photos

Photos from Avignon - look at that blue sky! What a gorgeous day!

A courtyard in the Palais des Papes

One of the many huge and cavernously empty halls the palace specialised in. PS God bless the off-season!

Le Pont d'Avignon - it took a few tries to get this without cars in the way and I am (justly?) proud

The pont, from the pont - meta-pont!

The Palais des Papes

Some Popes of questionable gender and/or sexuality. Not that there's anything wrong with that, although I'm pretty sure there would have been at the time...

Looking down the Rhone from the Pont d'Avignon. PS sorry purists, but I just can't do circumflexes without a lot of hassle... Don't even get me started on how I've somehow screwed up my apostrophe key so that it tries to put accents on everything all the time. Not even useful accents, things like ý

Picture of a feral rabbit tile I enjoyed in the Palais des Papes

View from the Pont. I like how it feels like I'm on board a ship. Kinda.

View of the pont from the tower of abiding coldness in the Palais des Papes

View of the square in front of the Palais des Papes from the tower

And now, our after-school special:
Sur le pont d'Avignon.................L'ON Y DANSER!

Some pointless leaping about

Pulp Fiction styles

The robot (HYYYYYYYYBO!) Hybo say hello Ranch clank clank

What is this one called? I've gone totally blank

Supposed to be the twist, not that you can tell. There was also the monkey, but that didn't translate to film too well either.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Sorry to myself and the two other people who maybe read this, I have been very slack. During a period where I actually did a thing or two as well! Since I saw you last, we have entered a new decade - scary thought! I thought I was going to have a pretty lame night, but it wasn't half bad, actually. Low expectations are always the key with NYE, I've found. Mum & Dad & I had dinner in the one place we could find that was open - they may as well not have bothered as we were the only ones in the dining room most of the evening! Then we headed off to the pub in Bolton-le-Sands (I love that name, by the way) where I was pleased to meet up with a bunch of girls and guys who I'd met on Christmas Eve. They were all super friendly and nice - I wouldn't want to live there, but it is cool the way everyone knows everyone and yet they were still all interested in and welcoming to 'exotic strangers'.

The rest of our time in England was pretty much spent shopping. Goodbye most of my tax refund money, but hello some gorgeous boots, two cardigans, a jumper, books, a slinky top, a jacket... I think that's all. I also brought back a ton of chocolate, some cheddar cheese, cider and bacon mmmmm. Luckily my parents were there on the flight back to absorb some of the extra weight - Dad was not impressed that my suitcase alone was heavier than the one they were sharing between the three of them. Oops! But I've been enjoying bacony cheddary goodness while reading books and thinking about chocolate in some lovely boots ever since. Or some other combination of the above that actually makes sense.

It was really cool having the family here in Nice, it made me feel all proprietorial about the place. I loved being able to show off my French & take them around places. The hire car was traumatic - so glad I don't have to drive here!! Highlight was accidentally driving on the tram tracks... We did have GPS but it was a bit skittish and I wasn't much use because I'm not all that used to taking one way streets and pedestrian only areas (and tram tracks) into consideration when making my way around the place. Mum refused to get in it again until they went back to the airport, so apart from a trip to Avignon with me & Dad, it stayed up at my place most of the time. At least our carpark finally got some use!

I showed Mum & Dad 'my park' and the archaelogical museum/Roman ruins, which I think Dad really enjoyed. Then the next day we all went (including Paul) to Monaco - pretty much just got there, walked into the centre, snapped a few photos and left! It's true though, Monaco is not the most exciting place in the world, especially on an overcast day. It is nice to say you've been though. I think it was the day after that that Dad & I went to Avignon - Mum refused for the abovementioned reasons and Paul was sick. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, untraumatic once away from the city streets but man, the tolls are expensive and frequent! Dad & I prided ourselves on our slick toll operation by the end of the trip, we must have been through 3 or 4 tolls each way, and since some of them you had to take a ticket and then pay later that adds up to about 12 toll stops!

Avignon was pretty cool - we were lucky to have a crisp, sunny day although it was definitely colder than Nice, especially when we went up on a tower at the Pope's palace - freeeeezing. Dad said he felt colder than at any other point in the trip i.e. worse than the freezing winds and snow up by Hadrian's Wall, for example. The Palace of the Popes was pretty huge, mostly empty apart from whatever objects and explanations they'd stuck in it. It was interesting to get a bit of an idea of the history of the place, I'd vaguely known about it but not the specifics of why the Popes came there and how there came to be rival Popes etc. etc. (Summary: it's complicated but they left Rome because it was dangerous and later wound up with two Popes because the whole shebang was just about politics and who you knew etc.) Then we went to the bridge, where you better believe I danced! I made Dad take photos of a variety of styles - the monkey, the Pulp Fiction, the twist etc. etc. I could have probably gone on all day but alas Dad cut the photo session short after about the 6th move. We also made a brief foray into the town centre and had some delicious and massive américains (half-baguettes filled with meat - chicken in our case - and a bag of chips) oh how I have missed you! So good! Then it was time for the trip back.

Another highlight was dinner at Le Tire Bouchon, a restaurant in Old Town, which was absolutely declious - so good we went twice. I had artichoke and bean soup, sea bass & one night I had creme brulee and one night chocolate fondant. I thought I had better bite the bullet and try creme brulee once in my life - I've always thought about it but passed it up for something I *knew* I'd like, so being in France and all, this was a good opportunity. Anyway, it was okay, but once was probably enough. Glad I finally tried it though!

Possibly we did something else that I can't remember, I feel like I'm missing a day, but maybe not - they were only here from Sunday evening until Friday and I did have to go to work during that time, although I had a bit of extra time cos I took a couple of classes off. Anyway, they're long gone now - Mum & Dad & Jess (who is back from central America) met up in London & are now presumably just about back to New Zealand, and Paul who went to London as well is now off to Spain. I really have no idea when I'll see my family again :(

Since then I've just been back into the routine. I've picked up a couple of private lessons - had one one-on-one conversation class on Friday which seemed to go okay, and me & the other assistant are starting to teach a whole class focusing on (gulp!) explaining the grammar etc. behind the answers on the multi-choice exams they'll eventually be sitting for pilot school. So that's something to keep me out of mischief and put a bit of extra money in my pocket, which is always appreciated. Time is just flying by, I really can't believe that the next holidays are 2 1/2 weeks away - craaaazy! I will be going away up to Paris and Tours most likely, which should be fun although draining on the old finances. Hopefully I might be able to catch up with an old friend from Prague, Carolyn, who now lives in Madrid.

Anyway that is all, will try to put some more photos up some time when I stop being so lazy!