Thursday, September 27, 2012

En famille à Paris

Apologies, I've been quite a bit quieter on the blogging front this month than last. Mostly because a lot of what I've been up to lately hasn't involved having to change out of my PJs - after staying in my PJs all day on Tuesday, I hurriedly got dressed while watching the TV & only realised when I was outside that I had my dress on inside-out, oops! Luckily I was only going around the corner to help a friend practice for an oral presentation in English (and boy, does she need the help!). Partly because I went out a few too many times last week (Wednesday, Thursday, all day Friday in Paris and an all-nighter on Saturday, oops), which left me with a bit of a cold this week.

Tonight I'm supposed to be going to a pub to celebrate Guinness Day, which is totally made up & I don't like Guinness, but whatever. The main problem is, it being the end of the month, I'm as poor as a whole church full of mice (why are churchmice so poor anyway? Body of Christ not filling enough for 'em?). I have a cunning solution for this on Saturday though: Step 1: lure people around to my place with the promise of homemade hummus and carrot sticks (who could resist?), Step 2: ???, Step 3: profit! (by drinking the wine they bring me, muhaha). ((PS Not really, I'll let them have some of my wine too, I'm not evil.)

Anyway, one super fandaddydocious thing that I have done lately is a daytrip to Paris! My Uncle Jack-John-Jackie-John-Jack (so called by me because we have entirely too many Johns in our family and because everybody seems to call him a different variant of "John"), his daughter Jacqueline (my cousin, although I call her Auntie because she's old enough to be my mother - in fact her kids are older than me) and HER daughter Vanessa (first cousin once removed) are doing a bit of a tour of Europe right now & it was their last day in Paris. Ness lives in London, but I hadn't seen the other two since I left NZ three years ago, so it was a great opportunity to catch up.

Typically, since I suck at all things Paris, I got lost on the way from the metro to their hotel, literally just around the corner in Saint-Germain, but I went the total wrong way. Still, at this time it was beautiful and sunny, and I got lost next to a lovely church (Saint Sulpice). In fact, I think I've never even been in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood before (you may recall that I tried to find the St G-d-P church the last time I was in Paris, without success). I must say, Paris is starting to grow on me a little bit, as I realise how many things there still are to see and do, despite the fact that I must have been there a dozen times (short trips).


Fountain in front of Saint-Sulpice
Once I found their hotel (very classy, and great location), we decided to take a metro to Clemenceau-Champs-Elysées and then walk up to the Arc de Triomphe. By the way, Ness had awesome Paris navigational abilities, while I bumbled about saying silly things like we were going the wrong way when she wanted to get on the RER to go there (she was right, but I have an instinctive/stupid horror of the RER and would never voluntarily get on one other than to go somewhere like the airport. This one was actually quite nice though) and having no clue where we were when we came out of the metro station, and then almost getting hit by a car while asking a cop where to go. It's always a bit embarrassing, because people seem to expect that Paris=France and I will have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the best hotels/restaurants/itineraries etc., whereas I am in fact a Complete Womble.

I have seen the Arc de Triomphe before, years ago, but it was nice checking it out in the company of Uncle J, because he particularly wanted to see it as he remembered watching footage of German troops on the Champs-Elysées and Hitler visiting the Arc when he was a kid (Uncle J, not Hitler). It's always kind of mindblowing to remember that there are still people around with a connection to these historical events. I asked him what the war had been like for him in Liverpool - I didn't realise that there was a lot of bombing up there, I tend to just think of the Blitz in the south - but he told me that, while he lived a bit out of the city and so wasn't really affected (other than hearing the raids and going into bomb shelters etc.), he had an aunt living in the city, and he'd cycle in after every air raid to make sure she was still alive.

Awesome photo - you can neither see us properly nor tell we're at the Arc de Triomphe!

As you can see, the brilliant sunshine gave way to cloud while we were at the Arc, and it started raining as we headed back down the Champs-Elysées, so we decided to head into a brasserie for lunch. I normally wouldn't eat somewhere like the C-E, due to a general suspicion that places on notorious tourist spots like that tend to charge a lot and not try very hard, but in fact the food was quite nice. More importantly, we had a leisurely lunch (and half a bottle of rosé each for me and Ness) and just got to chill out, chat and people-watch for a couple of hours.

And I had frog's legs! For the third time in my life, so not a great novelty, but they are yummy.
After that, the rain had stopped, so we took the metro to the Louvre, got out, and walked back to the hotel, where they checked out & we took a taxi to Gare du Nord for their train.

Another not-very-good photo, but here we are at the Louvre
Me and Ness saying goodbye at Gard du Nord. Standing next to an ex-model, current personal trainer does nothing for a girl, I tells ya!
And after that, I headed for a much-anticipated meeting with one of my favourite blogging ladies (stay tuned, that's on the next exciting episode of Where in the World is Gwannel Sandiego)!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dye, Gwan, dye!

As you probably know by now (unless you're new round here, in which case, hi!), I grew up in New Zealand, but with British parents. I'm not going to say this represented an epic meeting of two cultures, but there was a certain British flavour to my upbringing that was sometimes different from that of my peers - some of whom had influences from parents from Croatia, or Ireland, or wherever else people who send their kids to Catholic school in NZ are likely to come from, and some of whom had been Kiwis for generations.

One of the things from my youth that I associate specifically with my English background is the comics and children's magazines that seemed to float about my home, provenance unknown. We somehow had stacks of comics and annuals dating back to the 1940s or 1950s (which were littered with racist references to the "Japs", "Bosche" and "Eye-ties", by the way) up to the 80s and 90s, ranging from tales of military derring-do for boys (the aforementioned racist WWII bunch), to the more mainstream antics found in Dandy and Beano (the original home of Dennis the Menace - contemporary with the US version, that is), to magazines specifically for girls, such as Jackie and Bunty. These definitely didn't come directly from the UK via my parents, who had said goodbye to the UK for the last time at some point in the mid?-70s, before I was born, and, other than a short trip by my mum in the early-mid 1980s, didn't go back until the 21st century, but I'm unsure exactly how they got there (help me out, M&D?).

I remember, in particular, one issue of a c. WWII-era annual (Tiger, I think - looking online, this seems to have begun publication in 1957, but I'm quite sure they were still harping on about WWII within its pages) which featured a brave Tommy (British) soldier trapped in a prison cell (probably by some nefarious German) who was saved, of all things, by a trained penguin with a key in his beak. Even as a child, I thought that was ridiculous.

Anyway, you'll be surprised to learn there is a point to this trip down Memory Lane to Magazines Past, and the point is that often, especially (to my recollection) in 1980s girls' magazines, they would feature "photo stories", which were often quite comical. Were these something that were found all over the world in the 1980s, or were they specific to British magazines? I certainly don't remember any equivalents from New Zealand. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's an example from the 1980s starring none other than a young Hugh Grant:

And so, when I decided to dye my hair for the first time since I was 14 (and even then, I only did it once), I thought I'd liven up a - let's face it - pretty mundane activity by presenting it to you in (an approximation of) photo story format. Please to be ignoring continuity errors, photos of me without makeup, and the mess behind me in the kitchen. Et voilà (PS this was a lot of wine-fuelled fun!) Click on the photos to enlarge if you can't read the captions:

ALERT! ALERT! Naked Gwan in 5...




I hate to break character, but I think I have dye on my forehead for the next few photos. Just so you know.

I know it should be "turbAnator", but I forgot which steps I went through to get this particular effect with the image editing software and there you go, I'm sacrificing spelling for aesthetics, a dark day for us all

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Things that make you go vroom

On Tuesday, I suffered what could be described as a comedic mishap. Well, if you're a sadist. I was cooking pasta with my laptop in a convenient and sensible location next to the sink, so I could catch up with The Daily Show as I cooked. I was obviously a bit clumsy with taking the pot of pasta off the stove, because I managed to spill boiling water down my front, and then had the reflex action of thrusting the pot away from me into the sink and splashing my laptop with water too. Now, it's not quite as bad as it sounds - I have an angry red welt about the size of the palm of my hand on my stomach and not that much water got on the laptop. In fact, although I did react straight away to wipe the water off, I at first thought it was fine, since the video kept playing and everything stemmed normal. Maybe that was dumb, but I've had the odd spill before with no dire consequences, so it was only when, a short time later, I tried to type something that I realised the keyboard was fried. Several days later, the keyboard is still on the fritz. Other things kind of work, but you'll get weird reactions like windows opening and closing over and over, so it's not really useable.

Naturally enough, I went hunting for the receipt for this thing costing hundreds of euros which I only bought back in April and couldn't find it. A receipt for my broken nano which I bought over three years and three moves ago in new Zealand? That I have. So anyway, I went down to the place and they reckon they should be able to find it for me. Obviously that kind of thing isn't under warranty, but I'm hoping my insurance will do something - or more likely, tell me that the excess would be more than the repair. I wouldn't know, since I emailed them and obviously in France people don't do crazy things like replying to their customers.

Anyway, I'm typing this out laboriously on my iPad (yay iPad), so I'll wrap things up with an explanation of the title. Today is the three-year anniversary of my move to Europe! I left NZ on the 09/09/09, so it's easy to remember. Of course, time zones and 27-hour plane trips being what they are, I didn't actually arrive in Europe until the 10th, and then I spent a couple of weeks intially before arriving in Nice around the 27th of September, methinks.

And (I'm getting there, I promise) the reason for my flying to Milan was to go watch my first live Formula One race. Some of you may be aware that I'm a huge F1 (car racing) fan. I try not to go on too much about it on the blog, as I know it will bore the pants off everyone, but if you follow me on twitter, that's where you can go for pants-removing F1 chat every couple of weeks or so.

F1 races are always on a Sunday, which was not the 9th, obviously, in 2009, but this year the Italian GP is on my Europeversary, which I thought was a nice little coincidence. So without further ado, I invite you to take a wee walk down memory lane with some photos, videos and stories from Milan, monza, and the exciting (honestly) world of formula one. It's really hard to understand just how fast, loud and exciting F1 cars are in real life even if you are a fan, so i dont know if this will convey any of that, but it will give you a little taste perhaps. Just FYI, again, F1 cars are crazy loud, so I suggest adjusting your volume if you watch any of the vids.

Photos of Milan and at the track:

Videos of the cars in action: 

And a super long account of our time in Milan and at the race. FYI, every time I go on about watching "quail", it should be "quali" i.e. the qualifying session before the race. I am not that interested in quail: 

PS So many people read and seemed to enjoy my last post, probably largely to Mary Kay tweeting/linking it, so big thanks to her and welcome if any new readers decided to stick around! Probably not, since I cunningly followed it up by not blogging for over a week and then posting a rehash of old blog posts on a niche subject, but hey...

PPS I wrote this in advance, and I think now my laptop has pulled a Lazarus and come back to life! Hallelujah!