Saturday, July 24, 2010

Photo fun

Well, I have nothing interesting to say really, but I do have quite a few photos - random shots from around Tours, my purchases from the last day of the sales today (no more shopping this month for me, or next month with holidays to pay for!) and the Bastille Day celebrations.

Video & photo of the Bastille Day fireworks down by the Loire. I like how everyone claps the fireworks!

One of my new dresses

And the other. My photo mojo was not there today - after about a million takes, everything was coimng out blurry or ugly or both. So when I put on my new bat-wing cardie, I decided it was time to get silly instead...

Secretive ninja

Pretending to be graceful

The crane


Let's try that again, with a bit more menace

A la guinguette, a guinguette being an open-air café or dancehall. This is here all summer on the banks of the Loire, and there's various things like bands playing or dancing or games depending on the night.

People dancing at the guinguette.

St Martin's Church

Sainte Maure cheese. I won't do a cheesewatch on this, since I'm fairly sure I've said before that this is an utter marvel of cheeseadry and very unfairly unknown outside the region (well, to me it was anyway!). I just wanted to post the adorable little goat with her log of Sainte Maure on the label

I love how this old building has been preserved wedged in between two modern ones. I'm not sure what it is now, seems to have a garage in the lower bit (?)

This is where Joan of Arc stopped to get some armour made before going and fighting the English. And now it's a shop on the ground floor and what looks like empty apartments up above. Can you imagine living in Joan of Arc's old hangout? Europe, I love you.

And this is my gym, which looks like a 19th century drawing room with exercise machines in it. Presumably they actually restored it to look like this, as apparently this street, one of the main axes in Tours, was pretty much bombed to bits in WWII

Flowers I bought last week

I already knew that roosters went cocorico, but according to this butchery window in Les Halles, cows go meuh like a bored teenager...

Sheep do a French version of baaa, pigs... growl?, and rabbits go clap clap? Also, someone has written 'aie' (ouch), which you can see next to the pig, and on the pig (you can't see in the photo) someone put 'ce pub ment' = 'this ad lies'. Not sure if they disagree that rabbits go clap clap (I sure do) or if it's some animal rights thing? If you look closely, you can also see me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Making friends... hard to do. So far, I pretty much have my flatmate, who doesn't go out very much, the intern at work, who is making the transition to an outside-work friend hopefully (cos after next week she won't be the intern at work any more, and I will have no-one to have lunch with boohoo) and the guy I was dating but all signs point to that I am not dating any more (so no need for follow-up questions mother).

So today, for the third time since I got here, I went to this monthly meet-up organised by this girl I met one of my first weeks here. Usually up to a dozen people turn up, so theoretically a great place to meet people, right? And meet people I have, but moving past 'meet' to, like, actually talking to them is another story. When everyone sits around in a noisy bar and talks, I can follow maybe 50% of the conversation at best, so actively participating in said conversation is a challenge to say the least. So I just pretty much sit there most of the time and try to listen. So of course no-one's particularly into making friends with that weird girl who just sits there in silence all evening, right? Think back to the 'foreign' people in your life - quiet? shy? boring? My money's on they just bloody well couldn't fully understand what was going on, couldn't fit in with jokey banter, or didn't want to bring the whole conversation to a screeching halt while they took 20 minutes to formulate a sentence.

So yeah, things are tough. Tonight we at least went to a salsa evening. I was really bad at it, but at least I was bad on a mostly linguistically-neutral level. My problem is the same one I have with things like driving - once I think about it, I can't do it (and someone ends up dinged). It seems like it might be good for meeting people though, so maybe I'll go back next week.

On the way home, I had to look at a bloody map to get from the main square in the old town (Place Plum') to chez moi. This is like almost as if I got lost trying to get home to Queen Street on a night out on K Road (which I wouldn't put past myself either). Rub-bish!

After tomorrow (which brings with it an up to THREE HOUR web-meeting gahhh), one week of work to go! Yeah, I generally like my job, but as the hols draw closer I am totally counting down! Oh, and talking of linguistic issues, today my big boss asked me to explain an English term (Digital Humanities Workshop) to her IN ENGLISH and I totes failed. Trop embarrassant! Well, it's complicated, and I'm not 100% sure exactly what digital humanities entailed and I didn't really know which words she would know. Am now convinced that she thinks I'm just pretending to be a native speaker.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In which I have what Mum would call an adventure...

...and everyone else would call a pain in the arse.

So today I went out to the gym mid-morning in an effort to beat the heat, which worked nicely. (Full workout btw Mum, you were right.) Returned home about an hour before qualifying for the British GP was about to kick off, plenty of time to eat lunch and do some housework.

About 1.45, 15 minutes before qualifying, I was in the middle of cleaning my room and decided to take down the wrapping of the 5 or so parcels I've received in the last couple of days (preparing my summer reading via Amazon - it's just incredible that I can get a book sent from England to my door in France for 3 euros TOTAL! They're not all that cheap of course, but wow!) Anyway, there I was, still in my gym shorts and tee, slipped on a pair of sandals to go downstairs and fatally decided not to take my keys.

I think you can probably see what comes next. Yep, I locked myself out of the house. Once you shut our front door downstairs, it's locked, you don't have to turn a key. The dumbest part of this? As I made my way down the stairs, all I was thinking was "better not lock yourself out, what would you do then?" And then I evidently closed the front door behind me without a care in the world, because I didn't even realise I'd done it until I'd deposited the recycling and went to go back in.

So there I was, on the street, on another blazing hot day, with nothing but the clothes I stood up in. No cellphone, no money, no nothing, just the knowledge that my flatmate would be at work all day, on the other side of town, and I would die without water. So I decided to ring my neighbours' doorbell (who I've never met) and basically beg. This was pretty awkward... The lady who answered the door was super nice, she let me in right away and suggested I ring my flatmate (don't know her number) or the rental agency in case they had a spare key (the most I remember from writing my rent cheques is that their name is some kind of acronym). I was sitting there on her couch in my gym clothes, sweating buckets, it was fricking awful. Eventually, she figured out that I could ring my flatmate at work (good job her), and my flattie rang the former flatmate who has a set of spare keys, but no dice, he was out of town. So then I had to really awkwardly ask for money for bus fare. I said 5 euros, and I think she thought I might be scamming her at that point, since the bus fare is only 1.35 each way, so she gave me 3. Fair enough, obviously. I only said 5 because it was like 30 degrees and I knew I'd be thirsty, but I coped (I actually spent my return bus fare on a bottle of water cos my ticket was valid for an hour - although you're probably not technically meant to use it for a return trip).

Anyway, I was lucky enough to get a bus there and back without having to wait at all, and got the keys off my flatmate no worries. Once I got back to mine and was reunited with my handbag, I went and bought the neighbours a bunch of flowers at the convenient Saturday flower market for being so nice, which I think they really appreciated. In this day and age it does actually restore your faith in humanity a bit to know that someone would let a crazy, shabbily-dressed, sweaty foreigner they've never seen before into their house, let them use their phone, leave them unsupervised to do so, and lend them money, all with no way of knowing whether I would ever pay them back, or if I'd pay them back by robbing the place. So I hope by paying them back in money and flowers I returned the favour in that way as well. I also feel proud of myself, because once over I probably would have been way too shy to ask for any help, let alone money, and would have just walked for like an hour out to the flatmate's work. Travel = character-building.

Took me about an hour to take the trip out to my flatmate's work and back, thus I missed the whole of qualifying :( And to cap it off, Button's miserably down in 14th!

Friday, July 09, 2010

My new best friend

Have I mentioned it's hot here? Fricking, terribly hot. It's 10.30 at night and 30 degrees according to the good folks at Google. My open windows serve as a nice reminder that the neighbours are having a party while I'm sitting at home on a Friday night, and also that the rubbish collection happens twice a week at 5 in the morning.

So I have a new best friend! Meet fanny:

She comes with a wide array of features, including a remote control (batteries not included), timers (not sure whether you time it to come on or go off...) and the mysterious choice between 'natural', 'sleepy' and 'normal' blowing.

But the best feature of my new friend fanny is...

she provides all the fun of a night-time demonic presence!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Me at my most charming

I finally got 5 charms (a mix of presents and ones I bought on my travels) soldered on to my bracelet, so after not wearing it since before I left NZ, I can finally rock it again :) Will have to re-accustom myself to having a constant jingly accompaniment to my daily tasks. It's not cheap maintaining a charm bracelet, let me tell you! Cost 30 euros for this round of soldering, the bracelet itself cost about 50 euros, and then each charm usually runs about 10-15. I have 12 now, so that's over 200 euros it's worth now. But of course it's irreplaceable really.

Charm bracelet in situ:

For anyone who doesn't know, I try to buy a charm for each country I visit. I say try, because it can be surprisingly difficult. The idea is to get a charm that represents the country somehow, not just any tat I happened to buy there. I looked EVERYWHERE in the Czech Republic and came up empty, so no charm for there despite having spent about 3 months there, also couldn't find anything for Poland or Monaco. Can't remember why I don't have anything for Belgium, presumably couldn't find anything appropriate (what symbolises Belgium anyway - beer? frites?) I've also ended up with some that don't quite fit with the theme.

From left to right:

A gumboot, for New Zealand - a Christmas present from my brother.
A buzzy bee, also for NZ - leaving present from my last job in NZ. For non-New Zealanders, a buzzy bee is a wooden toy on wheels that's become something of a NZ icon. Prince William was famously photographed playing with one when he came to NZ as a toddler.
A kiwi - also NZ. This was one of the first charms I bought, before I left NZ in 2006. I don't mind having 3 for NZ since it's my home country after all.
The crowned heart is for Scotland. I visited Edinburgh in August 2006. It's the emblem of Mary, Queen of Scots. I wanted a thistle, that being more iconic for Scotland, but I couldn't find one. I'm happy with this though - no-one knows what it is, but it's pretty.
A J - this is for me (initial of my first name). Bought this before leaving NZ as well.
A harp - from my trip to Ireland in August 2006. This was the first charm I bought overseas. Again, I wanted a shamrock but the shop I went into had every single thing to do with Ireland - dancing shoes, pints of Guinness, you name it - but no shamrock. I'm pretty annoyed that it's on backwards. When I first got them soldered I thought they'd be smart enough to figure these things out, but these days I'm very specific.
A fleur de lys - for France, of course! I bought this the first time I lived here, in 2007. I'm really glad to have found a fleur de lys, I was determined not to get the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it is probably the most recognisable symbol of France, but it really rips my nightie when I say to people back home or whatever that I live(d) in France and they go "blah blah Paris blah". France is a huge country (well, by NZ standards) and I've lived in 4 different regions, none of which include Paris!
A book - this is the only one that opens, and there's a worm inside. Another present from my workmates. This doesn't fit with the theme, but represents my literature degree and being a librarian.
An icon - this is for Russia, where I lived from November to January 2006-2007. This is the only one that I don't think is real silver, considering I bought it at a market in Moscow. Have just noticed that it's bent, I suspect that might have suffered from the soldering going on next to it, not being silver and all. Doesn't really matter. It's on backwards, which is irritating because the sides are so different - the back has writing in Old Church Slavonic, the front is what appears to be the Virgin Mary holding some arrows, but I'm not 100% on that.
A lion - for England, my ancestral home and the other of my two nationalities. Bought this in 2007, but I've been to England a bunch of times. It's technically on backwards too, because the hallmark shows, but I suppose it's not a big deal...
The leaning tower of Pisa - Italy, obviously. I didn't go to Pisa, but I thought this was the most recognisable symbol for a charm bracelet, despite the fact that it doesn't really lean as such. I was in Italy for a couple of weeks in September last year.
One of Raphael's putti - for the Vatican City. Much as I like Raphael, I don't actually like the putti (as seen here), they're a bit sickly kitch really. That said, an appropriate symbol for the Vatican City (there wasn't much choice anyway), and not *that* cheesy in a tiny metallic format.

In other 'news', I finally remembered to take my camera on what is a practically daily excursion to the park, in order to take pictures of the cool terrace houses that line the street the park's on. Tours was apparently bombed quite a bit (by the Allies I think) in WWII, and so you have the old town, with medieval buildings, and some 19th century bits, like where I live, and then there's plenty of ugly post-war stuff as well, particularly as you go down towards the Loire. But (as I think I may have said already), around here was the chi-chi area in the 19th century, and while my house isn't quite as pretty as these, it's a pretty nice quartier.

Street of 19th C terrace houses

A cool wooden door

This church is a bit incongruous on this street. Not in love with it, but it's at least interesting, especially the bell tower.

Two houses I like.

The much-talked about Cheesewatch returns. Basically I made a Cheesewatch of this because it's called 'crottins de chèvre' which translates as 'goat droppings'. Mmm, tempting. Of course, that's got nothing on 'pets de nonne' - nun farts, which are a type of pastry I haven't tried. Will update if and when I do... Anyway, I don't often meet a goat's cheese I don't like, and the crottins were pretty good - salty and strong-flavoured, but with a much drier and firmer texture than something like feta.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Yay for sales!

Since I got some lovely comments the last time I posted the fruits of my shopping, here's what I picked up in the sales! (Also bought a bra, a nightie - the fate of the one I bought about a month ago remains unknown, and a dressing gown. Items not pictured.)

This looks grey bt is actually olive green.


I will probably have to stay away from the shops and out of temptation henceforth, because I have to watch my money in order to pay for holidays next month. I have the first three weeks of August off, can't wait! The lovely Ruth, last seen in Milan, will be coming out to see me & we plan hopefully to spend a few days filled with lounging and wine somewhere in the region (not sure yet), and then I'm going to Porto for a long weekend, where I'll get to catch up with my friend Carolyn, who I haven't seen for 2 years. Then in September I'll be hosting my sister, who I also haven't seen in 2 years (can't believe it's been that long!) Very much looking forward to all that!

It has been crazy hot here, highs of 33, 34 degrees. Friday afternoon was just so hot and humid I'm pretty sure like no work got done in our office, felt like the air was so thick I could hardly breathe, let alone work! I spent pretty much the whole of last week going through the website and pointing out everything in the 'English' version that needed re-translating (I will mourn the passing of the word 'searchbot' from the site, however) and then working on the English version of a couple of our tutorials. This required familiarising myself with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. As some of you will know, this kind of thing isn't really 'me', but I'm getting there, and trying to remind myself every time I get insanely frustrated trying to line things up etc. that it will be good to put on my CV!