Last time I posted, I mentioned my friend Amber was coming to visit. Amber is a fellow librarian with a special place in my heart since she once made me Eggs Benedict when I was badly hungover. She then forced me to watch the Home and Away Omnibus, but I suppose nobody's perfect. Even though she was only scheduled to be here from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, I took both Friday and Monday off work (for house-cleaning and hangover recovery purposes). Sadly, though, just as I was thinking about getting up on Friday morning, I got a message that she couldn't find her passport, and thus the trip was off. Bummer :( Especially because, although Friday morning started off horribly, it subsequently cleared up and we've had nothing but blue skies and sunshine since then. So I was left all of a sudden with a 4-day weekend and nothing to do...
I decided I wanted to do something with my day off anyway, so I headed to the movies to see We Need to Talk About Kevin. I couldn't help constantly comparing it to the book (I don't want to give anything away, but let's just say I thought the psychological aspects and the build-up to the ending were better handled in the book) but it was pretty good, although the succession of 30-second scenes was a bit irritating, especially early on. It really was a different story than the book, not because they changed anything material in the plot, but just because of the nature of film and certain choices in how the story was told. After that, I went and had a pint (of cider) at an Irish pub and watched the world go by. Lots of tourists about! I was down by the cathedral, where I don't normally spend a lot of time, so I don't see tourists all that much usually. I would have thought the season was finished, but I suppose you've got the people like me who don't like travelling in peak season so much.
On Saturday I met up with Marion the kiwi to check out some French classes I'd heard about. She doesn't speak a word of French, so she has been looking for classes and I asked around and found this voluntary association that gives classes for only a 36 euro annual membership fee. Amazing! They are aimed at helping immigrants integrate into French society - to be able to pass exams in the hope of getting into university or getting a job. I have been slack as in terms of studying French. It's been 9 years since I've taken classes, and to be honest, other than living here I do absolutely nothing to improve. I have improved nonetheless, but I know there are still plenty of gaps and grammar I've forgotten or never properly learnt. So I thought I might as well check it out as well, and although I'm not sure how committed I'll be to 4 hours of fairly disorganised classes with a wide range of levels jammed together on a Saturday afternoon, at 36 euros you can't go far wrong.
On Sunday, I set my alarm for 7 am to watch the Formula One race. I have much more commitment when it comes to getting up early for F1 than I do for work! Unfortunately though, I woke up feeling sick after only 2 glasses of wine the night before. If there's one thing I hate, it's a hangover without having even had a proper night out. If I'm going to be sick anyway, I may as well have been out drinking cocktails and making a fool of myself. So anyway, I ended up watching a few laps and then going back to sleep and watching the replay later. Okay race, a good fight between Webber and Hamilton in particular, but not a classic. If you'll permit me to talk motorsport for 1 more minute, it was sad to see news of the death of a British IndyCar driver, Dan Wheldon, this weekend. F1 is the only motorsport I watch, but I saw news footage of this, and it's just a waste. I couldn't help thinking, "why was that fatal? Why was his car on fire?" Say what you will about F1, it has really become incredibly safe compared to the past, and apparently compared to other types of motorsport. Compare it with a crash like Robert Kubica's in Montreal in 2007 or Mark Webber flipping his car in Valencia in 2010 and you see how safe F1 really is (Kubica had to go to hospital, but no-one was badly hurt in either of these incidents). Sadly, Kubica has actually been out all season after badly injuring himself rallying in the F1 off-season. Fingers crossed he makes it back into F1 soon, he had so much potential.
Then today, I thought I should also do something worthwhile with my day off, and decided to go for a long walk on the banks of the Loire. I used to go for walks all the time in Nice, but a combination of having less spare time, the bus routes being terrible in the countryside round here (don't want to walk for hours and then there be no bus back for 2 hours) and there not being any scenery quite as lovely as the Cote d'Azur in these parts means that I haven't really done it here. But today I had a very nice walk in about 18 degree sunny weather along the Loire to just after Rochecorbon (about 5 miles according to Google. I'm not sure why it's suddenly in miles. Apparently that's around 8 km in sensible units of measure). Then a less pleasant walk part of the way back on the main road (due to the bus situation).
Presumably the 13th century fortified farm I saw a sign for
Pont Wilson (as in Woodrow)
The library and cathedral viewed from Pont Wilson
A church on the north bank of the Loire
Some autumn colour on the banks of the Loire