Sunday, December 15, 2013


I was going to do nothing for my birthday - last year was a three city, two country extravaganza, but that was my thirtieth. Liz, however, was having none of this and proposed that my friends back in Tours chip in to buy me a train ticket back "home" to celebrate together. Somewhere in there, a side-trip to Nantes (yes, all the way on the other side of the country) got tacked on - mostly, I suspect, because that's where Liz's boyfriend lives, but I was fine to go with the flow.

So the plan was a quiet, tame night in Tours on Friday, followed by a big one in Nantes on the following night. I think you can all guess how that went down. The champagne was flowing at Liz's and we ended up at our familiar old haunts of the Pale and the Beer Academy, as we have so many times before. It was kind of bitter-sweet being back in Tours. It's not quite "where everybody knows my name", but there's something to be said for feeling like a regular instead of a tourist when you walk in somewhere. Of course, more than the pubs, I miss my mates though! They are some of the funnest girls you'll ever meet, very difficult to replace!

That is Liz's hand by the way!


Basically, all my photos were a series of me with different random guys. I find the expression on the guy second from left priceless!

It's just unfocused drunk face, but I like the sort of innocent, young look I have going on here

Firstly: I like how the only people looking at the camera are the dudes in the background. Secondly: who is this man? Ignore the unflattering profile, and look at us having A Moment. I think he might be my soul mate and I missed it 

Look, he's even (presumably) laughing at something witty and hilarious I said. Unfortunately, he's only in these two photos and I have no idea who he is. Hence I'll die alone ;)

So, surprise, surprise, we ended up staying out all night, and the next day was a bit of a shambles. I woke up thinking I'd lost my phone, which I was pretty bummed out about, since it's an iphone my sister gave me and I've only had for about 3 months. Happy ending though, since it turned out Caro had it (for some reason). However, she couldn't let me know at first since I was with Liz, who had lost her entire handbag!

I was feeling a little under the weather, but not terrible, but Liz was dying. The plan had been for Liz and Mel to take a carpool to Nantes, with the rest of us driving in Philippa's car. 12 pm came round, and Liz was in no shape to turn up for the carpool, stranding poor Mel as well. Using GPS, Liz thought she tracked down her phone (and hence bag) to the Beer Academy, so that was the good news. The bad news was it's a club, so presumably wouldn't be opening till the evening. We decided to tell the rest of the girls (and Chris) to set off by car & Liz and I would take the train to Nantes later. In the end, there was still no response from the Beer Academy, so I left Liz feeling sorry for herself and took a train at 5 pm, getting to Nantes around 7.30.

By the time I turned up, my birthday champagne that Marion, my kiwi friend who now lives in Brittany, had brought for me had already been drunk (boo), but I suppose that's my fault for turning up late. After a couple more bottles while we got ready to go out (not very much of which was consumed by me, since I was still feeling slightly sorry for myself), with still no sign from Liz, we headed into town for dinner around 10 pm.

As anyone who's ever tried to eat late in France can tell you, this was a bad idea. There's really a very small window in which you can hope to be served. Before 7 = too early. You probably can find some food, but they'll probably spit in it since you're clearly an uncultured tourist oik. After 10 = nearly impossible. Granted, we were trying to get a table for 6 and every restaurant seemed to be busy, but I can't even tell you how many places we went into unsuccessfully. One particularly dickish restaurateur even refused to suggest any other restaurants that might serve us because "he couldn't guarantee any other restaurants used fresh produce". Dude, we're not coming back to your restaurant anyway, don't be a twat. Anyway, *finally* we managed to find a Moroccan place, where the service was chaotic but the food was okay, and most importantly, they let us eat there. Apparently, the guy on the next table to us spent the whole meal making fun of us all in French, but whatever, I couldn't hear him. Once again though people, some of us do speak more than one language.

To our great pleasure, we learned that Liz was on her way after all. She searched the Beer Academy from top to bottom for her handbag, but was defeated. Finally, with a heavy heart, she popped into the Pale, which is just around the corner. The barman there took one look at her and produced her handbag from behind the corner, with everything safe and sound. The question is how we all managed to leave the Pale at 2 am and go to the Beer Academy and none of us (Liz especially) ever noticed her handbag was missing? Bless her, even with a killer hangover, she got into her car and drove all the way to Nantes, turning up around 12.30 am to meet us in a pub. Not quite sure how she managed that!

From there, we went to a horrible club. It was soooooo crowded and unpleasant, you basically couldn't move at all. Since I was still not quite on top party form, I decided I couldn't cope with this place, and we all went home. Felt a bit bad since everyone had more or less been dragged to Nantes on my behalf and we saw basically nothing of the city, but I did say they could have stayed out without me.

Caro and Mario(n) in Nantes
Chris and Mel in Nantes
So the next day, basically we had time to get up, have some more girly chats while getting ready in the hotel, have lunch, and then it was time for my train back to the other side of France again. I think it was something like a 1400 km round trip for not a lot of Nantes time, but most importantly, I got to celebrate with some awesome people!

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Birthday post to come this weekend hopefully. For now, I'm proud to announce I made my third ever pun in French today! (You can read all about my first pun here, my second pun sadly went unrecorded. Won't make that mistake again.)

I tried to say I had a blocked nose, but instead of saying "J'ai le nez bouché", I accidentally said "J'ai le nez bouchonné", which, as my colleague informed me, means "corked", as in wine. My punny response - "Ah, c'est du pif !" Pif being slang for both "red wine" and "nose". Okay, okay, still not very funny, but think of my French puns as like women preaching or dogs walking on their hind legs...

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

'Tis the season to be jolly

As I said last time, I wanted to be sure to check out a German Christmas market while I had the opportunity. So on Saturday, the Brit and I headed over to Trier, apparently the oldest city in Germany, which is just 45 minutes or so by train from Luxembourg. (And, by the way, a return ticket from Luxembourg cost less than 10€, whereas it would have cost something like 70€ from Metz! That doesn't include that I can travel between Lux and Metz for "free" with my monthly train pass, but still.)

The Porta Nigra, a Roman gate in Trier. Looking on Wikipedia, it looks better from the other side...

Town square in Trier

Hideous elephant. The "elephant parade" was going on around Luxembourg (and apparently Trier) since I visited in the summer until last month or something. Unfortunately, this one strayed from the herd

The Brit had actually suggested on our first date that we go to the Karl Marx museum sometime, so we decided to combine that with the market excursion. Marx was born in Trier, and the museum is in the house where he was born and lived for maybe a year or so. This tangential connection to Marx pretty much sums up the museum. It was informative (thank goodness for the free audio guide though, because all the written information was in German) but pretty much entirely devoid of any artefact that had even a passing connection to the man himself. There were a couple of reproductions in cases of things like newspapers he wrote for, but even those were few and far between. Bizarrely, there was an old Atari computer from the 80s in one room (we had an Atari growing up, but ours was the type that plugged in to the TV), although I couldn't tell you why.

We learned some interesting things though - who knew that Marx died stateless, having renounced his Prussian citizenship, or that two of his daughters and his son-in-law committed suicide (for unexplained reasons)? It also did a good job of mapping out the influence of his ideology on different thinkers and regimes around the world, in a pretty balanced way. You did kind of leave, however, thinking that there was not much there that you couldn't have got from reading a book or listening to a podcast.

Marx museum done with, it was time to look around the markets, sip glühwein and eat sausages. Which we duly did. The markets were nice, although very crowded. I feared for my coat with the amount of red wine served in tiny boots and cigarettes that were sloshing around the crowd. The atmostphere, however, stayed festive. We stayed until almost 9 pm, by which time people were definitely on the merry side, but I didn't spot anyone that seemed to be blind drunk. Judging by the conversations I could hear around us, most of the crowd were German, with a minority of French speakers, which I imagine is not the case for the bigger markets in places like Cologne or Munich. We spoke to the vendor in a sweet shop who told us that weekend, the first of the Christmas markets, was the biggest of the whole year for him, and I can believe it with the crowds there were. I must say, everyone we interacted with was very nice too, so much for stereotypes!

So, there are two reasons why I don't usually blog about "relationship" things. 1) Nothing to report, ever. 2) I'm naturally pessimistic about everything and I don't like talking about jobs/dates/moves etc. which I think won't end up working out. So yeah, turns out that was my last date with the Brit, so I should have stuck with the policy. Two days shy of my 31st birthday, I got an email this morning to say that he didn't think we should see each other any more because I don't want children. I guess that's appropriate enough, since it's surely a sign of getting old if men start running away because you *don't* want kids. I was kind of surprised, since I didn't think things were serious between us, but maybe that's the point. Before you feel too sorry for me, he called on Skype last night - presumably to break up - and I thought "I'm tired, do I have to answer that? He's not even my boyfriend..." Clearly I'm a selfish person who doesn't deserve to be in a relationship anyway.

Still, even if he wasn't the one, I'm a bit upset. We got on well, I liked him. It was just nice to have someone around for once, especially since I'm low on friends etc. here. This would have been my first birthday celebrated with someone since 2004, or 2003 if you count that I was actually on the other side of the world and a few months away from breaking up with my boyfriend in 2004. That's a long time. And it hurts a little to be confronted with the reality that you reach a certain age where things are just going to get harder, when obviously they haven't been easy up to this point either.

So I suppose my actual birthday is going to be lonely, but at least this weekend I will be back in Tours to drown my sorrows with my friends...