Sunday, October 31, 2010

Soirée raclette

Alors, hier soir on a eu une soirée raclette à la maison - bon vin, bonne bouffe, bonnes amies! (Thought I should start out in French to match the title.)

Yesterday my flatmate Géraldine had the bright idea of having a raclette night at home, seeing that she has a raclette set and all! Basically you heat up your own cheese under a table grill contraption and then pour it over a selection of deli meats and potatoes and I suppose anything else that took your fancy. Sound good? Yep, it is! My friend Liz came over & we celebrated Kaelyn's last night in Tours in style, up until 1 am when I went to bed (and back in time 1 hour) and the others stayed a bit later.

Today it was up early, before 7 am some time, can't remember (thus not much sleep for me!) to walk to the train station, get a shuttle to another train station, a train, then a plane. As you will remember, I was stressing about whether or not I would make it to the church on time. Everything went smoothly until I got to the airport, and the plane was delayed by two and a half hours. I'm sure I cursed it with my worries about not making it there on time! So, unfortunately instead of arriving at 2.15 or whatever it was supposed to be, I got in at 5, and there went my first precious afternoon in Venice. It was also raining and dark by 5.20! 11 hours' travelling between stepping out my front door and arriving at the hotel... All that for a 1h20 flight ha ha!

Ah well, looking on the bright side, I'm here, my hotel is well-located and I have a very cute little room for a most reasonable price, and the rain gives the whole shebang a very "Don't Look Now" feel to it. I will let you know if I run into any red-coated dwarves. (Note to Dad: insert joke about Mum not being in Venice here.) (Maybe I should put a spoiler alert on that, but pretty sure the statute of limitations has run out on a 30 year old movie or whatever it is...)

Pretty tired now, so I'm just about to turn in with a book (at 9.35) and hopefully get up bright and early tomorrow and make the most of my sadly short time here.

All set for raclette!

Pouring the melted cheese...

Mmmm, ready to eat!

Me, Géraldine & Kaelyn

The ladies who raclette - Géraldine, Liz, Kaelyn & me

Géraldine, Kaelyn & Liz

Géraldine comes in a convenient pocket-size & is a less scary sight on the windowsill than the evil cat

Liz considered it photo-worthy that I was saying no to wine and yes to water (having to get up early in the morning will occasionally do that to a girl!)

Bonus photo - a picture of me enjoying some cider in Chinon taken by my big sis

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Fast times in Tours

Have been busy/exhausted this week, working all day and hanging out with Kaelyn my cousin at night, but it's been lots of fun! Tomorrow I go to Venice, good news is that thus far it looks like everything is going to be running on time, so fingers crossed. The Easyjet site is predicting a lot of flight disruption for next week, not too sure if that's only leaving France or coming in as well, but frankly, as long as I make it to Venice I don't care too much! Forecast is rain, rain and more rain in Venice, so I'm hoping it doesn't flood too.

Here's some photos from Kaelyn's visit & more to follow after tonight (raclette night!).

Kaelyn has seen the cat and will confirm that he is possessed! Here's a good shot illustrative of that fact. He's fricking huge!

Okay, I promise not to post any more pics of the cat, at least not for a while.

Me and Kaelyn out for a drink. I kind of look like my boob is in a sling, but eh well.

Me and my friend Liz enjoying a bevvy, I look like I'm up to no good as usual

Kaelyn on the banks of the Loire

Kaelyn and one of our cats, Chausettes (the non-pee-er)

Not the best picture, but I just really like this building. It's an old clothes storage place that looks like it was built in the 30s or something. They gutted it just recently, unfortunately I didn't get a photo beforehand, hope they build a sympathetic new façade!

The cathedral at night, and a full moon

Monday, October 25, 2010

She - she my cousin

I hope Ranch reads this, because probably no-one else in the world will get the reference in the title...

Anyway, my cousin Kaelyn turned up on Friday afternoon, after a pretty miraculously trouble-free trip from Paris. So far we haven't done a lot, but there's been good food and wine once more.

On Friday night we headed to the same restaurant that I went to with Jess - La Souris Gourmande, featuring cheese, cheese, and more cheese. We went for the special, which was called 'The Golden Mountain' and which turned out to be a huge wheel of special sheep's cheese from the Pyrenees, only available for a few months a year (I love the idea of 'seasonal' cheese), baked in the oven and then served with a plate of deli meats, potatoes and salad each, plus bread of course. The cheese was all hot and runny and you just spooned it on to whatever concoction of food you had assembled. Mmmm. After that, I thought we were going to see a movie, but turned out I had the wrong day, so we just headed down the road to an Irish pub where we ran into a few people I knew and stayed for a few ciders.

After a lateish start, Saturday was just spent wandering around the town showing Kaelyn a few of the sights of Tours, followed by an evening spent snacking on bread, cheese and dips and a big salad composed of stuff we bought at the market and polishing off a bottle of wine each, before we went to the late movie with a couple of friends. Then it was back to the same pub for drinks with a few other people who had already seen the movie (The Social Network - pretty good actually, although it kind of makes you want to quit Facebook!)

On Sunday I had to get up early to watch the F1, after not very much sleep at all. Which was not worth it since the start was rain-delayed and then run behind the safety car for ages, so like the other week, I could have slept in for about 1 1/2 hours more and not missed anything! When it finally did get going it was a pretty great race though! Anyway, I was pretty tired after that & being Sunday there wasn't a whole lot to do, so we headed out for a nice lunch - 3 courses for 13 euros, you can really get some good bargains on fixed-price menus, especially at lunch! Then Kaelyn wanted to watch the Liverpool match, so after a bit more walking around town (another great sunny day) we went to the SAME Irish pub, where we didn't actually manage to see the game, but got talking to a group of English & Scottish people who turned out to be current English assistants, so that was pretty cool!

I was exhausted by the time we got back & fell asleep at around 8 pm which is pretty much how I stayed for the next 12 hours! So, not super exciting, but a nice weekend!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Beast

Here's the home invader with hate in its heart, ready to kill your mother as soon as look at you aka Crazy-eyed Killah :

And if you think I'm being unfair by putting a photo up with demon-flash eyes, here's another one:

Seriously, would you not be scared if this thing was in your apartment, frothing at the mouth to murder you and rape your kitty children? Okay, maybe I'm being a tad melodramatic, but I'm still scared of the thing when he's safely behind a pane of glass...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Killer cat attack

So there's this giant tomcat - like, really, really big, that climbs up the neighbours' roof somehow and comes and sits on our kitchen windowsill. My flatmate has warned me before that he got in one time, looking for the sweet lady cats in our apartment, and he was just impossible to get out & scratched up her old flatmate. That's why we can't have the kitchen window open.

So, I think you can see where this is going. We keep a bucket on the kitchen windowsill, and every time you open and close that window, guaranteed the big cat will be there like 2 minutes later. So I stuck the bucket outside, and obviously failed to latch the window closed properly, because next thing I know I'm in my room and there's this almighty howling. Now, sometimes our two cats will have a little go at each other, but this was insane. I opened my bedroom door and there was fur flying everywhere and the giant cat was in the house.

I swear to god, I almost had a heart attack. I'll try to remember to post a photo of this cat the next time he's on the windowsill, because it is HUGE - the size of a small dog, by which I mean like a terrier, not a chihuahua, and it was making this weird noise that I've never heard out of a cat in my life. I was absolutely *terrified* and didn't know what to do.

The first thing I thought of was protection in case it attacked me, so I grabbed the duvet off my bed & held it as a shield. Next thing, I managed to get it out of the room where I knew one of the cats was (I didn't know where the other had gone at that stage) and close the door, & I grabbed the big laundry basket from under the bathroom sink. So now it was just me and him in a Mexican standoff. At one stage, he yowled and leapt at me, but I managed to fend him off with the duvet, and slowly back him down the hall, shut my bedroom door, and edge him into the kitchen. This whole time, he's making that unnatural noise, occasionally hissing, and looking me right in the eye.

I considered my options, all the while trying not to spook him into attacking me & fervently hoping that he'd just jump out of the window of his own accord. I considered throwing the laundry basket over him, but then I couldn't think what my next move would be & I was scared I wouldn't manage to trap him & would get hurt. So I went with holding the blanket in front of me and just trying to slowly back him up to the window. Thank god he finally decided to leap up to the sill & I slammed the window shut as fast as I can, hitting him & almost making him jump back in, but thankfully I managed to shut him out. I couldn't get the window shut properly at first though, and to my horror, he was trying to smack against the window and GET BACK IN, so I had to stand there holding the window shut and praying he would go away. He didn't, but eventually I somehow managed to shut it properly, to my enormous relief. This might not sound that scary, but honestly, I don't know if I've ever been that scared of anything! I felt like I had a demon cat out of a horror movie in the house with me, honest to god.

I knew Chaussettes was in the lounge, but I hadn't seen the scaredy cat Maya around anywhere, and to my horror, couldn't find her anywhere under the couches or in the cupboards. I had a sinking feeling that she had fled out of the window in desperation, & I thought that that might very well be the last we would ever see of Maya. After checking in the most implausible places - locked cupboards etc. - I pulled on my coat and shoes to look for her in the street, and finally thought of one more corner I could look in, where I was unspeakably relieved to find her hiding. I'm thinking she's probably going to stay there for the next few days, because we're talking about a cat who's scared of her own shadow here (plus I probably made it worse by knocking over a clothes horse looking for her, she probably thought the world was coming to an end).

Anyway, about half an hour later my adrenalin's still through the roof, but I'm sure it could have been way worse. Like locking myself out of the house, I'm thinking this is one lesson I had to learn the hard way, but won't repeat!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vive la différence!

I've been thinking a bit more about a couple of other things to emerge out of my lunch with the boss yesterday. For example, she said at one stage that I was "always there, working, & I never took any time off". I think I managed not to shriek with laughter, but I did say that I was definitely NOT complaining, but I wasn't used to having quite so many holidays. I suppose it's true in a way, apart from the compulsory August holidays I have only taken a couple of days off so far (with a couple more scheduled around Toussaint and the 11th Nov, in order to extend the long weekends a bit). But seriously, gentle readers, I work 35 hours a week and I have (once again) 11 weeks' paid holiday plus stats. And to a French person, this equals "always there, working"!? Lolz. In fact (as I explained to her), I'm taking 3 weeks at Christmas - there's a two-week compulsory shutdown, but I'm taking an extra week because my parents are visiting. Then there's another compulsory 2 week break over Easter, although I'm not too sure how that's going to work with Easter being so late this year - if the 2 week break extends into May I'll have to take extra time off in April or before that to make sure I take all my holidays before the end of my contract (even if it rolls over), because my contract ends on the 1st of May. So at the moment, that leaves me with "only" 2 weeks' leave to spend, & I'd rather not take too much time now & hold out for some long weekends when it's deepest, darkest February/March & I just don't want to get out of bed!

Anyone who's reading this and thinking "WANKER!" - I don't blame you, seriously I know it's a ridiculous amount of leave & I'm very very grateful. But do bear in mind that I earn less here per annum than I did in my last job in New Zealand, & the cost of living is a lot higher - for example, I pay nearly double the rent here that I did in Wellington (my apartment's nicer to be fair, but it's also in a small provincial city, not the capital), so it's not all sunshine and roses. I'm not complaining, but just to balance things out...

Anyway, the second thing that stuck in my mind a bit was that we were talking about how I found my apartment in Tours & she said that she was impressed that I handled it all myself & if it were a French person, they would have been on the phone going "help me, help me", so that was a point in my favour! I was thinking (but didn't say of course) that it was partly that I was just too shy to ask for any help, but you know, it's true that by this stage I'm pretty self-sufficient and good at taking whatever life throws me. Travel's good that way. As well as the general experience in living in the famous 9 cities, this is the third time that I've turned up in a new city where I didn't know a soul & had to find a place to live and figure everything else out at the same time with nobody there to give me a hand. Doing it in Wellington was a bit easier, for obvious reasons, so I'm glad that that was the first time I had that experience, a trial run if you like. But does that mean that foreigners in general are more self-sufficient than the French? To be honest, I have my doubts. I've come across plenty of people, particularly in the assistantship programme, fresh out of university and fresh off the boat who have been pretty clueless and panicked and really reliant on people to help them sort their lives out. I think a combination of life experience - I'm not just out of university & having my first experience overseas or outside of a structured environment (living with Mum & Dad, or, from what I gather, in a dorm in the US - which by the way is not intended as a dig at Americans, it's just that it's much much less common for people to live in dorm or other student accommodation in NZ, or even to go away to uni, unless you come from a town where you have no choice in the matter) - and just the fact that there WAS no-one to help me when I turned up here in Tours or when I arrived in Nice or Wellington for that matter, is what makes me "different" in that respect.

Anyway, that's probably just pointless rambling, but it was just interesting for me to have a French perspective on what, in their opinion, makes me different from a French person, since usually it's just the other way around.

Friday, October 15, 2010

This & that

I have been uber-slack with posting lately, but seriously, nothing interesting has been going on! BUT, I have my cousin visiting next week, which is very exciting because I've met her one time & that was 6 years ago (she's Canadian), so I'm really looking forward to getting to know her a little better. Then I go to Venice, or at least I really really hope I do - I'm getting anxious that there will be transportation strikes. There is another strike scheduled next Tuesday, they seem to be one a week right now, but who knows what the sitch will be by then. I will be really devastated if I can't go though, partly because it will be quite a bit of money down the drain, guessing Easyjet doesn't refund for train strike cancellations & I would lose at least the first night's cost of the hotel room, but also because I'm really looking forward to it!

I mostly posted because I had lunch with my boss today because she wanted to practice her English. I was a bit nervous that it would be awkward or we wouldn't understand each other or something, but it was actually really nice, I think I got to get to know her a bit and vice versa & I finally got to say that YES, I would really like to stay in my job if the government funding comes through (let's all cross our fingers). And she said they were lucky to find me :) We went to an Italian restaurant in the mall near work, and surprise surprise, it was really nice - even mall restaurants are good in France eh! We had three courses, terminating in a trio of gorgeous chocolate desserts for me - chocolate mousse topped with caramel, gianduja icecream and hot chocolate fondant, heavenly! AND wine - you don't normally get that over a working lunch in NZ! On the way there I said "Yes" quite loudly while we were walking behind a couple of women and they turned around and STARED at me. Like, not just "oh, English, weird" but full-on 5 second stare, it was rigolo (funny) as we say in France. Yeah, okay, I don't work in a touristy area, but speaking English is not like having two heads!

Other news of note, I bought a new dress, oh so pretty! I had actually tried it on weeks ago and it was a smidgeon tight across the chest but they didn't have my size. Popped in yesterday & there it was, very pleased & I wore it today. And the really big newsflash is that I also found comfortable, non-stretch material, non-body hugging track pants. IN FRANCE! It's definitely too cold for shorts now, so I really was looking for them, but was only finding lycra or other stretchy numbers. Okay, I realise there are people out there who want to flaunt it, but seriously the LAST thing I want is people being able to see the exact contours of my arse while I'm working out. Oversized comfort all the way! Plus I will probably be living in them around the apartment as well. Tempted to get another pair, but while they're totally worth it for one pair, they are 20 euros, so I might just wait for the UK to get another pair for a few pounds.

Hopefully more exciting things to report next time, for now it's off to the gym in my trackie daks!