Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Christmas, everyone!

Another uneventful Christmas over. My sister Jess arrived on the evening of the 23rd, and on Christmas Eve we went up to Kendal to see the owls again, and then attempted to go to the Pencil Museum in Keswick or somewhere. We had quite a nice drive through the Lake District, but the weather in Keswick was absolutely miserable and when we turned up at the Pencil Museum it was shutting early for Christmas Eve anyway. Still, got a photo as proof we had been in the vicinity of the world's most exciting museum.

But alas! We will never know what the mysterious secret war-time pencil, envy of James Bond, is all about!

Christmas Day itself was fine. I seemed to receive a hail of presents, and Christmas dinner was very nice. I was expecting a day of interminable boredom, but helped out with cards and lots of cider, it was fine in the end.

Me, Mum and Jess at Christmas dinner

Yesterday we drove into Liverpool to watch Liverpool Football Club play Blackburn. We had pretty good seats, right up the top but in the middle, so we could see everything (although half the time I didn't really know what was going on anyway). They played pretty rubbishly and only got a draw, but that's fine. It's more about the atmosphere of being there anyway. It definitely is impressive hearing a whole stadium singing and cheering in unison.

The teams lining up before kick-off

My dad takes a notoriously long time to take photos, so I always end up looking like I'm in rigor. Liverpool are warming up in the background

Unfortunately didn't manage to get any group photos where everyone had their eyes open all at once

Other than that, I've hit the sales a little bit. I got a few things before Christmas when we went to an outlet mall, and yesterday I got a Clinique Happy perfume box set for only 22 pounds, which is an amazing deal. It has a 100 ml perfume, body wash and moisturiser and a scented candle in it, which considering the 100 ml perfume on its own was selling for 50 pounds, is quite the bargain! I got a half-price dress from Monsoon as well, plus I have got half-price sports shoes, a dress for 8 pounds, 2 tops, a Jaeger red coat (yay) and a Radley wallet (for Christmas). I wanted to get a Radley wallet last Christmas, but decided since I'd spent about 500 pounds shopping that I should show some restraint. Well, good things come to those who wait!

Other than that, things have been quiet. Jess just went back down to London and I am going back to France tomorrow. I should be able to get a train straight back from CDG to Tours (fingers crossed, as I really don't want to go through Paris if I can help it). Looking forward to getting back home and seeing if Bob has been very naughty or just slightly naughty in my absence, although it will be sad to say goodbye to Mum & Dad for another year.

This was in the window of a local engravers' shop. It made me laugh to think of why anyone ever would want a nametag reading 'self-employed'. I imagine Mr Barns going to speed-dating nights and just tapping the badge when the ladeez ask him where he works.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry old England

On Tuesday morning, when I was setting off for my trip to the UK, I had somehow mysteriously forgotten to turn on my alarm, and was very lucky that I checked the time when the rubbish trucks woke me up. It was only 10 minutes later than I'd intended to get up, but you know how these things put you on the back foot a bit, so that, combined with the fact that I'd neglected to do some stuff like look for my NZ-UK plug adaptor the day before, had me running around a bit like a headless chicken. Never mind though, everything went smoothly with getting the train, up until the point where I got out of my seat to get off at Roissy-CDG and I was so busy telling myself not to forget my coat out of the overhead luggage rack that I somehow missed the step down from the seats to the aisle and fell straight over sideways into the seats on the other side of the aisle. Luckily enough, there was no-one in the aisle seat, but there was a young guy in the window seat whose lap I virtually fell into. He laughed at me, and rightly so. There was an awkward few minutes until the train pulled into the station, but oh well, I'll never see him again!

Of course, my saying that there would be no snow this year and my flight would therefore go smoothly managed to provoke a strike of the airport security staff. I was pretty much resigned, therefore, to long lines and a delay. In the event, it actually wasn't too bad. The security lines didn't seem any longer than on a normal busy day. In fact, I had too much water in the queue with me, and so I had to drink about a litre in 5 minutes in order to save the bottles to fill up again after security. I actually missed the passport control lines, as in a rash moment I decided to opt in to the French government's scheme whereby you provide them with your fingerprints and you can then go through electronic gates. My reasoning was mostly that I had already had to give fingerprints to the US governement, which really pisses me off because a) it's not optional and b) I've never even been into the US since they introduced this – my American readers might not know this, but non-US nationals have to go through the entire security procedure, including being photographed and fingerprinted (and maybe having an iris scan, I don't remember) just to transit through the airport. Ridiculous. Anyway, I actually had assumed that the French scheme would only want prints of my index fingers, like the Americans, but they actually took them all except my thumbs. So no more crime sprees for me.

We still ended up boarding a little bit late, and then there were two passengers who didn't turn up and had to be offloaded, so we were delayed a little bit more. Then we taxied off down the runway, sat around for ages, and then, unbelievably, taxied back to our stand because they had forgotten to do some paperwork! I've never heard such a stupid thing – if I were the captain, I would have lied about the reason! After all that water, I was dying for the loo by this stage, but of course you can't go on the ground. Once we finally took off I was up the aisle like a shot as soon as the seatbelt sign went off. I had an exit row seat with a ton of legroom, which was nice, although the seats weren't that wide across and the girl next to me kept touching me with her arm (Air France). Anyway, by the time we landed we were nearly 2 hours late. No-one actually seemed that agitated, I think everyone was probably expecting delays already, like me. Oh and I forgot to say how much I hate the fact that they always pick the holidays to go on these strikes. I support the right of people to unionize and negotiate with their employers, including striking if necessary, but deliberately choosing to make life as difficult as possible for the public, who should be on their side, is not on, especially at Christmas.

Anyway, finally landed at Manchester and it was lovely to see my Mum and Dad again after a year. Nothing very exciting has been going on here since then, with the exception of OWLS! Yes, your faithful correspondent got to play with owls! We were in the town centre of Kendal – up in the Lake District – doing some shopping, and suddenly came across a guy with a great big owl on his wrist. I assumed at first it was just one of those guys who sort of busk with a bird of prey – I'm not sure whether I've ever seen them in the UK, but they seem quite common in Eastern Europe. However, there was an empty shop next to him that was full of owls. Turns out they were a charity that rescued owls and took them round places to educate people about them and how they should be treated. There were some really sad stories. The big one, which was a European Eagle Owl, had been rescued from a guy who bought it to carry around on his wrist and look scary. Apparently he used to punch and kick it! Who would do such a thing to an owl? I'm amazed the owl didn't bite or claw him. I was a little bit scared of it myself, especially when it looks straight at you (although the guy explained that they actually aren't looking at you if their eyes are pointed straight at you, because they look out of the corner of their eyes). The guy said it took a long time to heal it, both physically, since it had lost feathers and so on, and to get it to trust people again, but it seemed incredibly tame by this stage.

The European Eagle Owl

Me and the European eagle owl. He's posing better than I am

Me, Dad, and the tawny owl

The tawny owl was my favourite. I think I'm a bit scared here, because the handler basically shoved it at my face and told me to cuddle it

I can't remember the name of this owl, but I think it came from South Africa. The white owl behind us is a barn owl

The church in Kendal, begun in 1201

Pretending to be a medieval carving of a Queen

Pretending to be one of the wise men

Sunday, December 18, 2011

On slang

Recently, I was having a conversation at work and astonished myself by hearing the words une nana come out of my mouth. Nana is French slang for 'chick', and I've undoubtedly picked it up (after always regarding it as a faintly ridiculous thing to say, given that its connotations in English are roughly diametrically opposite to in French) from my manager, who invariably refers to women he's come into contact with as "cette nana (qui travaille avec Roméo, qui m'a envoyé un mail hier, etc.)" I don't think it's meant to be offensive, I think he uses it just as the female equivalent of "ce mec" (this guy), it's just that, in French as in English, slang terms for girls carry baggage whereas those for guys generally do not.

That got me thinking about the perils of using slang in a foreign language. The next time I refer to someone as une nana (kind of hope there's not a next time, but hey) am I going to wind up inadvertently offending someone? Or will I slip up and follow my female boss's example of saying ça me fait chier! (which means 'that pisses me off', but literally 'that makes me shit') in a meeting? Even if I'm using the slang correctly, does it come off as being weird somehow? We've probably all encountered a non-native speaker of English who secretly makes you giggle when they bust out with "'sup dawg" when most of the time they can barely string a coherent sentence together. How does one find a balance between not sounding like someone's nana (in the English sense) on the one hand, and not sounding like a silly white girl who's watched La Haine (a famously slangy - and very good - French film set in the 'ghettos' of Paris) too many times? How do you judge whether a word that seemed fine when talking to your friends is okay to use with your neighbour? I was horrified when I learned that dégueulasse, which I'd just thought was along the lines of 'gross', could be considered closer to 'effing disgusting'. And it might be almost as bad if you drop a "slang" term in that was last current c. 1974 (like if someone told you something was "groovy, hepcat, can you dig it?")

I know, more from teaching English than from learning French, that there are different schools of thought on whether learners should be taught slang and other non-standard forms. The first camp holds that it will just confuse learners and lead them to making mistakes and embarrassing themselves, so you shouldn't teach 'bad' English/French/etc. and you should just tell students it's wrong if they ask you about it. I can understand not confusing someone who's just learning how to say "Comment-allez vous?" with all the different other ways to say this (the old dude at work who apparently speaks 'country French' - I often fail to understand him - confused me once by asking me "tu vas?" which literally means "are you going?", without the normal "how..." in front of it. I answered "Where?"...) but I think at a minimum you should acknowledge that not everyone speaks like your French textbook.

For one thing, language can change in more than one 'direction', so to speak. Words that were once acceptable or common may not be a couple of decades later. I've heard learners of English talking about "feeling queer", for example, and I remember the textbook we taught from in our CELTA course encouraging students to talk about their "turn-ons". In a French context, I've heard of many people, who learnt French in different countries, being tripped up by their textbooks or teachers telling them that baiser (the verb) means 'to kiss', whereas that meaning has been thoroughly supplanted by 'to f-ck'. Mysteriously, almost everyone seems to learn that the hard way!

When you get to a more advanced level in a foreign language, I think you should be actively providing students with examples of slang and other non-standard usages. It should be clear that it IS slang, but even if you tell them not to try using it themselves, it's always useful to actually be able to understand people (once you've got over the hurdle of being able to understand basic French, obviously). It seems to be a common sentiment (I certainly think so, although I don't know whether or not it's objectively true) that the French are pretty bad at slowing down and dumbing down their speech for foreigners, so you can't necessarily expect that a conversation won't be sprinkled with exotic argot.

The final phase is using slang yourself. I have some terrible habits in French, such as dropping the 'ne' in negation every time (everyone does this, but a certain type of French person will scold you for it because you're a foreigner) and ending sentences with quoi? waaay too often (kind of like 'innit?' in a UK-English context, or 'au?' or 'eh?' in NZ-English. Americans and others feel free to suggest what the US etc.-English equivalent may be), but most of the time I feel I use slang more or less appropriately, even if I sometimes feel secretly a bit foolish talking about bagnoles and fringues (cars and clothes), etc.

What about you guys? Do you feel you've mastered French slang? Or have you ever used it when you shouldn't have? Do you think foreign speakers seem silly using slang? Or sillier if they are talking like they've swallowed a 1950s phrasebook?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Anatomy of a messy apartment

In the spirit of procrastination, I bring you this break-down of my messy living room. Certain non-neutral observers (*cough* Mum and Dad *cough*) will tell you my natural state is that of a pig wallowing in its own filth, but I'm actually usually quite a grown-up about cleaning regularly, while still not being the *neatest* soul in the entire world. I'll admit I've been a bit slack though, but since I'm going away on Tuesday, I need to do some cleaning! But first, it makes total sense to blog about the crap that has accumulated in my apartment. Kind of like those features in magazines where you see a writer's office or what's in someone's fridge, except I haven't run around and removed all the shameful evidence and put up pictures of the Dalai Lama and so forth. Some of the numbers are a bit hard to see, but they are usually next to each other and you probably don't care that much to be honest!

1) Presents! The fruits of my Christmas shopping, waiting to be wrapped and/or chucked in my suitcase as is. Liz walked in when I had my birthday drinks and got all excited that I had presents. Sadly, no, I only got two birthday presents (and glad to get them too, of course).

2) When I did a new load of laundry, the old lot made its way onto this chair and has remained there for several days now, apart from the bits that have fallen onto the floor.

3) Red shoes! I think they're here because I was Skyping someone while drunk and wanted to show them off?

4) A whole pile of paperwork that needs filing. (Just from the last week or two!) Until I moved to France, I had two methods of dealing with Important Documents - 1) Stick them in a shoebox and assume God will sort it out 2) Carry them around in my handbag until they get dog-eared and illegible and then conclude I might as well throw them away. I always have a bottle of water in my handbag, and even if it doesn't leak (which is like a once-monthly occurrence) then it often has condensation on the outside and manages to destroy documents and create a soupy loam of tissues in the bottom of the bag anyway. Reason 345 of 563 why you don't go digging around in a girl's handbag without permission. Anyway, when you move to France you quickly discover that these methods DO NOT FLY! Everywhere you go, from the tax office to the bank to the rental agency, people will want documentation of your movements from birth. "What do you mean, you don't have paperwork for the vaccinations you had as a baby?" "You need to give us evidence that you were resident in New Zealand for purposes other than obtaining a drivers licence.... What? No, being born there isn't enough!" etc. etc. So now everything gets filed (eventually) and smugly produced in triplicate everywhere I go.

5) Hard to see, but it's an empty can of Red Bull. My colleagues find the fact that I drink Red Bull an endless font of humour for some reason. I know it's not good for you (and for the record, I drink the sugarfree variety at work, this is the full-fat "weekend treat" version on my table though) but come on, 4 out of the 7 go on smoke breaks every half an hour and no-one frickin tells hilarious jokes about how they're "sponsored by Marlborough" or whatever. This ranks right up there with the minimum twice-weekly comments on how I must be cold (surely by like, the third time, you can deal with the fact that NO I'M NOT COLD, STOP COMMENTING) in the list of Things My Colleagues Do That Annoy Me. Oh and the one woman who rubs her hands together all the time and it sounds like they're made out of dry leaves.

6) There's a lot of crap on the table, so I'm not even sure what I'm drawing your attention to here. Maybe the industrial-strength cat claw clippers that allow me to clip maybe one of Bob's claws at a time before he runs away and sulks for half an hour. Maybe the empty box of Tortina biscuits from Monoprix (soooo good, go buy some!), or maybe the pile of dinner plates hiding behind my laptop.

7) The current batch of laundry, which is also dry and needs to be put away. Why is putting laundry away such an infernal chore? I don't even iron anything!

8) I don't see 8 anywhere, I think I forgot it.

9) A couple of squares of dark chocolate left over from the awesome brownies I made for our work Christmas lunch yesterday. I drank maybe like half a bottle of Vouvray (bubbly) and was *not* drunk, butI was sick as in the evening. Curses! Maybe drinking in the daytime is not for me after all.

10) The document file optimistically waiting for me to do that filing. There's also another pile of documents underneath it.

11) At Home by Bill Bryson, which I picked up from the library for a friend. We had talked about it ages ago and I said I'd get it out for her if she ever wanted (cos she doesn't have a card) and then when, months later, she texted to ask for "that book" I texted back "At home? I'm not sure if I can make it over there straight away but I'll try xx". The next day I got a message from her saying "Ummm... was that text last night meant for me?" As soon as I read it back, I realised that she thought I'd accidentally texted her in the midst of arranging a booty call. Ha ha! Overly optimistic, my friend!

12) I forgot 12 too. I'm a moron.

13) Clearly the giant cardboard box graveyard that takes up the entire east wing of the apartment is not going anywhere.

That's it. Does that mean I have to start cleaning now?? :(

Friday, December 16, 2011

Some of my favourite (French musical) things

Of course, as soon as I say the weather's been good and we won't have any flight problems this year, there's only a bloody storm (called "Joachim") across half of France! According to Météo France, the wind got up to 103 km/hr here last night. It claims the storm is officially over in these parts (until it maybe starts up again in the afternoon), but it's still raining on and off and windy. Anyway, on to the topic at hand.

Other than having to study the entire oeuvre of Jacques Brel at school, most of my knowledge of French music dates from 2007, when I lived in the Nord Pas de Calais with a bunch of Brits, some of whom couldn't speak any French at all. Consequently, the music channels (and we had about 5 to choose from on Canal+) were on in the lounge 24/7. Since then, I've mostly come across new (to me) ones in clubs or at the gym. I never listen to the radio anymore, so if I'm missing some good 'uns, let me know! It's a bit of a mixed bag genre-wise, but here are a few of my favourite things!

I first heard this back in summer, but I only just came across the video. It's Mika, singing in French! And it's super catchy of course!

Elle Me Dit - Mika

This might be cheating slightly, since Martin Solveig sings (or has other people sing while he DJs) in English, but he is French! And he performs the miraculous feat of producing music that makes me want to get on a treadmill and turn it up to 10 kph (truly a wonder for the ages). Here's his latest:

Hello - Martin Solveig

Big in Japan - Martin Solveig

This isn't really a favourite as such, but dancing the Madison is a weird fitting-in-with-the-French rite of passage. (Although I think it's maybe an American thing originally?) Everyone knows it (at least vaguely), and people will actually do it in clubs. I put this clip up out of the many available on YouTube because they dance the Madison about as well as I do.

The Madison by ???

Talking of not being able to dance...

Les blancs ne savent pas danser - James Deano

This gets stuck in my head big time every time I hear it, but I still like it!

Champs Elysees - Joe Dassin

Okay, I didn't grow up as the only black kid in a small French town, but I still feel like I can relate to this a little bit after living in the Nord Pas de Calais countryside

Marly Gomont - Kamini

There is a rocky version of this that everyone always ends up linking arms and singing along to at 3 am in your favourite French club, but I can't find it online. Does anyone know who it's by?

Emmenez-moi - Charles Aznavour

Mostly linking to this so French-speakers can have a laugh at the amazing spelling of whoever wrote the subtitles. And then he gives up on it altogether halfway through!

Garçon - Koxie

You can skip the first 45 seconds of this video if you're not interested in seeing old French men (including Eric Cantona I think?) argue in a tabac. This video always makes me want to go re-enact it in Marseille

A la Bien - Soprano

Kind of the "Sid and Nancy" of France, in that the lead singer of this band killed his girlfriend

I got really sick of this after thrashing it back in 2007. But I am proud that I can rap along with it! Plus MC Solaar is a legend - we even had him in our textbooks when I was first learning French

Da Vinci Claude - MC Solaar

And finally, another 2007 classic:

Double Je - Christophe Willem

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Talk of a winter wonderland may be slightly exaggerated

It's still, for the most part, not that cold in these here parts. I'm a bit reluctant to jinx things, but I'm thinking this year won't see a repeat of last year's 6 (? I don't remember) hour flight delay and finally getting to bed at like 5 am. At least not because of snow. On the other hand, I was in a meeting this afternoon and there was what I thought was super heavy rain and thunder and lightning, and then when we got out of the meeting there was:

Not snow, but tons of hail

And a pretty rainbow over the HLMs

A picture of the Cher which has nothing to do with anything

I have managed to get most of my Christmas shopping done. I ordered a few things on Amazon and sent them directly to the UK, so I hope they do/have arrived in time. Should be fine. Of course, only having 4 people to buy for makes things relatively easy. Other than that, my suitcase will be weighed down with lots of wine, as usual!

I had a look at the Christmas market on the weekend. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Too many people around, too many prams and people walking uber extra slowly and I start to get all antsy because I hate slow walkers and being in a confined space in a crowd where you can't get around people. Except for when I had my mulled wine, in which case I also had to move very slowly to avoid drips.

Marche de something

Get your roasted chestnuts here

Tours is not exactly the Christmas decoration capital of the world, but it's still nice to see lights everywhere and Christmas trees and so on. Here's some pics:

Just so you know I'm really in France, here's a Christmas protest for ya

A rather vulgar display at the mall

Fountain in front of the Palais de Justice

Fountain and Christmas tree

Fountain and the Christmas tree by night

The town hall

This is to show the roadworks which are everywhere and have been for aaages. We are getting a tram. The tram is everywhere I wanna be, which is probably good in the longterm, but annoying for the minute

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Lounging in Langeais

For the day of my birthday itself, I was rewarded with beautiful blue skies and sunshine - very lucky, since it had pissed down all day on Saturday and Sunday wasn't much better. I was under stern orders from several people to do something fun, so I decided to head down the road about 20 minutes or so to Langeais, which I have heard nice things about, most recently from MadmoisElla who took a trip there which sounds much more chic than my efforts. She didn't (to my knowledge) come back with a photo of the toilets, for starters.

I arrived in at about 1pm, so I didn't want to go into the chateau before lunch, but I wasn't yet hungry. So I first went for a wander through the streets. Almost everything was shut, unsurprisingly for a Monday lunchtime in a small town out of season. There seemed to be relatively quite a lot of car traffic considering, but hardly any people out and about on the streets. Also quite a lot of empty (closed down) shops. Perhaps times are tough here, like everywhere. I came across a pedestrian street that climbed up the hill, so decided I would follow it. I ended up amongst some of the troglodyte (cave) houses of Langeais. Cave houses are not uncommon around these parts - I think the chalky cliffs are quite easy to dig into - but most of them are proper houses carved out of the chalk. This one? Not so much:

Based on this though, Langeais seems a pretty sweet place to be homeless. Find a cave all to yourself and you're set! I didn't want to stay around here too long though, to be honest. It was very deserted, and a cave with a blanket hung up outside kinda seems the perfect place to be raped (and by perfect, I don't mean it's what every girl dreams of ha ha)! So I forged on further up the hill, which disappointed me in that it didn't really provide good views of Langeais - too many bushes. So I headed back down to the river and checked out the bridge that is apparently a key tourist attraction and photo spot (according to the Langeais tourism website) even though it only dates back to the 19th century.

I then headed along the river back into town, passing the coolest sign ever:

"Poney", as I think I've mentioned, is my favourite French word, owing to its comical Cartman-esque pronunciation. Now I have the great pleasure of imagining a French person saying "La Ferme O'Poney". Just thinking about it cracks me up, I might actually have to show he picture to a compliant Frenchy and get them to say it for me.

By now, it was time for lunch. I went to the only place that seemed to be open, other than the fancy restaurant MadmoisElla dined at, a creperie next to the chateau. They had a whole bunch of outdoor tables, directly outside the restaurant and around the corner, under a canopy. But when I went inside to ask if I could sit outside the woman was all "No, it's too cold". Replying "No, it's not, I don't mind" didn't change her opinion of the situation, so inside it was. That's the French for you - anywhere else, if the customer wants to sit outside, they sit outside, surely?

This is a bit hard to see, but the menu sang the praises of oats - it's what gives Scotsmen (and horses) their legendary robustness and everyone else "physical force and sexual vigour". I didn't have any.

Instead I had an "English" crepe, seduced by talk of cheddar and bacon. It was okay, but I was a bit disappointed that it was plastic cheddar and French-style bacon, not quite the authentic English feast of my dreams. Oh well, only a couple of weeks until I'm scoffing bacon and cheddar to my heart's content! The icecream sundae I finished off with was nice though.

Duly fed and watered, it was time to hit up the castle.

It was first established at the end of the 10th century, by a guy with a pretty bitchin' name - Foulque Nerra, Count of Anjou, which I think means Black Falcon in old French, but I could be wrong. It subsequently got fought over quite a lot, before falling into the hands of the Plantagenets, and eventually getting destroyed by Charles VII, the dauphin backed up by Joan of Arc. The only bit of the old castle that still remains is the keep, up on the hill separate from the current chateau, which dates from the 15th century:

The joys of visiting somewhere like this on a Monday out of season is that it was totally deserted. I didn't see another soul other than the staff (and not much of them either) until I went out into the grounds later on. So this was basically a licence to dick around taking self-timed photos of myself in the rooms. On December 6 1491, the castle was the site of the marriage of King Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany (Ruth and I already learnt all this when we visited Anne's former home, the chateau of Nantes), and several rooms were dedicated to recreating this historic event.

Here I am at the wedding feast:

And at the wedding itself (disobeying the no-flash rule):

All in all, the chateau was pretty well done, nicely furnished etc. although not as lavish as somewhere like Chenonceau or with as many things to look at as Blois. Here's an 'interesting' tapestry:

And a mirror that I liked because it reminds me of the mirror in the Arnolfini wedding by Jan van Eyck. Like the van Eyck, you can even see me in it if you look hard:

You could also walk around inside the battlements, which was pretty cool. Here's a view from inside:

And me hanging out up there:

They even let you climb up some scaffolding onto the 11th century keep!

Finally, here's the promised picture of the toilets. The window, as you can see, was wide open onto the courtyard and I had very awkward eye contact with some guy outside! Luckily I was only hanging up my handbag onto the hook, but seriously, I don't really want any toilet-based eye contact with strange men. So watch out for that one if you're visiting Langeais!