Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow...

So tonight was my first night back with crewU.

I cannot, I repeat, cannot, feel my ass.

But oh it was good to be back out there. First of all, tonight we had a FULL crew...with every official member!!! Since I like to think everything is about me, I'm going to say everyone made a special effort to be there simply because it was my first night back (in reality, I'm pretty damn lucky crewU didn't kick my ass off for the number of weeks I missed).

The illustrious Matt made his big debut as cox tonight, and he did a splendid job, in spite of the fact that he didn't let us stop for a water break until we passed the Mopac bridge and turned around. If you're reading this, I'm sorry Matt, but that bothered me more than the whole almost-running-into-the-bridge thing.

But otherwise the row was goooooood...and to my very pleasant surprise, it was not as hot and miserable as I had anticipated, even in our current 90-something degree weather...something about being on the water, and a nice breeze, I don't know. Whatever it was, I'm thanking the sun, moon and stars for it.

My body, however, was not as cooperative. It decided to pay me back in full for each croissant, every slice of cheese, each bite of cream sauce, and every bowl of clam chowder I've consumed over the last 4 weeks. Sigh...

My pain was lessened somewhat with crewU Happy Hour at the Cedar Door afterwards. And I felt even better when we got a table on the patio underneath the misters. For all you Yankees, a mister is how we Southerners can sit outside in the summertime and still keep cool.

The only problem with the misters is that if you wear glasses, you have to choose between being cool or being blind.

I opted for blindness. Sweating sucks.

But in any case, it was a lovely evening. And it spite of how much I am going to hurt tomorrow morning, it's good to be back.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Back to Life...Back to Reality...



So here's the wrap-up from Seattle...

On Monday, Cheryl, Greg and I met Laurie and Vivian downtown for seafood at Steamers. Mmmm...clams. From there we hopped on a ferry boat that gave us a great view of the downtown skyline--as you can see from the picture.

Afterwards, Laurie put the bug in her parents' head to take me to REI so I could get a pair of shoes like hers (let me assure you that they are really cool). So after saying goodbye, we headed over to the most amazing sporting goods store I've ever seen. Maybe all the REIs are like that, I don't know, but something tells me that since one is the original, it's just a bit more special.

In any case, I ran to the second floor, found my shoes, found my color, found my size, they fit, they felt good, they were on sale, and I bought them. Voilà.

We returned to Bellevue in time for the contractor to install the air vent in the bathroom, then ate chicken fyan fyan (Cheryl's speciality) and looked at old family pictures.

A nice way to end a nice week.

Yesterday I left for Austin and had about as much fun in the airports and on airplanes as I did on my way there. I finally made it in around 2 am, and wonderful Robyn met me at the escalators.

As fun as Seattle was, I am so happy to be back in Austin...in my own house, in my own room, in my own bed...and I don't have to travel again for another few weeks.

I'm not even bothered (yet) by the heat and humidity...

Check out the pictures from Seattle...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Vivian Makes a New Friend...


MonkFish
Originally uploaded by verretc.

Check out the creepy Monkfish, courtesy of Pike Place fish market. Fortunately for Vivian, we put her next to it and took the picture before the guys behind the counter started pulling a string to make it move. Another poor kid wasn't so lucky, and I'm sure he needed a new pair of underpants when it was all said and done...

I'm wrapping up a pretty "wheat" (as Nate would say) weekend with my cousin. Yesterday we went out to the zoo in the morning, after stopping for ESPRESSO along the way. Seattle has a very nice zoo, and I have to say that while normally I have issues with zoos and keeping wild animals caged, this didn't bother me too much.

Well done Seattle.

The highlight was visiting the butterfly house, a warm and toasty little solarium with butterflies all over the place. Creepy, yet kind of cool.

After returning to the house for Vivian's nap time, we set out again to New Orleans restaurant in Pioneer Square.

The food was good, but I have to be honest and say that my red beans and rice totally kicked theirs' a$$.

Afterwards, Eric and V went home, while Laurie and I went on the Seattle Underground Tour--that is, the over-21, "Naughty" version of the underground tour.

After being completely scandalized, we had a drink and talked till the late hour of 10 pm. Then we headed on home.

Today Laurie, V and I went out to Pike's Place. After scoring rock star parking, we headed straight for the fish market.

To our dissappointment, no one seemed to be ordering fish today, so we had very minimal throwing action. We finally decided to leave and see everything else, ending with lunch at some "French" cafe. They actually had TARTE FLAMBEE on the menu!!!!! I didn't order it, but was vraiment impressed that it even made an appearance.

We pretty much chilled for the rest of the evening, rounding off the weekend with a viewing of "South Park The Movie."

Shut your f-ing face Uncle F-er!!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow I head back to Cheryl and Greg's, and Tuesday...back to Austin and ...the reality of life.

You can't avoid it forever.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Sunset on Puget Sound


CourtLaurieViv
Originally uploaded by verretc.

Hello everybody,

Blogging grace à my cousin's loverly wireless connection! Can I just say that I agree with Kip when he says, "I love technology..."

Today was an eventful day. The action started when I discovered I could take a shower in the actual shower! Hooray!

After cleanliness, my aunt took me to Gillman Village, this little shopping center on boardwalk not far from Bellevue. I windowshopped a lot, but in the end only purchased a $5 magnet.

I really liked the magnet.

From there we went to Costco to buy vitamins and a book. When they didn't have the book, my aunt and I walked around looking for free samples instead. Afterwards we hit the grocery store, then the home store, then back to the house where my cousin's husband Eric came to pick me up and shuttle me to their house in Seattle.

Laurie, Eric and daughter Vivian live in this beautiful house that overlooks Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. It doesn't get any better than that.

Laurie had the grill already going and we shared European trip stories while eating BBQ chicken and veggies. Mmmmmm...

All the while, Vivian entertained us in that cute baby way. I have to start watching my mouth this weekend...her repetition is going to eventually backfire, I just know it.

We ended up watching the sun set on the deck, then put Vivian to bed, then hung out for about an hour, till we decided to go to bed ourselves.

Tomorrow, the city of Seattle is our oyster!

Thursday, June 23, 2005

"CrewU Misses U"

I got this text message today, via my good buddy Mary. Thanks guys, I miss you all too. And so does my a$$, because it's getting larger and larger every week I miss practice. The croissants didn't really help much either.

In any case, after a random crazy day of flight problems and delays, I finally made it to Seattle. Whohoo! It's weird, because it's been almost 10 years since my last trip up, but it feels like no time at all.

The house, however, is currently in shambles due to renovations currently taking place. Today I took a "shower" in the sink. God bless human invention. It made me realize though, all you really need to survive is running water. And a toilet.

Today my aunt and I escaped the work for awhile and had a good ol' time. She first took me to Great Harvest bakery, where they make delicious bread and cut off big hunks of it for you to sample. I tried out Olive Feta and Dakota, this grainy grainy goodness. No French baguette by any means, but delicious in its own way.

After picking out our bread, we got sandwiches and headed out to Green Lake, where we rented BIKES!!!!!!!! Yes folks, for the second time in one month, I have gotten on a bike and lived to tell the tale!

I am really thinking about buying one when I get back to Austin. Who knew peddling around could be so much fun??

Afterwards we headed to a couple home stores to buy bathroom decorations and such. While my aunt picked out towels, I had a seat on the demo massage chair and let it work its magic on my poor over-traveled back.

Ahhh...

We came home, puttered around, then settled in front of the tv to watch the Spurs/Pistons game while eating pork chops, baked potatoes, and salad.

Man it's great to be back in America.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Trouble...trouble trouble trouble trouble...

Yes, Ray Lamontagne is right.

I'm sitting in the San Jose airport after switching terminals to Alaska Airlines and going through check-in, security, etc etc etc all over again.

Oh, and my flight to Seattle is now also delayed.

I love to fly and it shows!!

The thing is...I don't think I'd be so annoyed if I hadn't been around all these other people from my plane who were also really annoyed...amazing how negative attitudes are catching eh?

In any case, at least Cheryl is still able to come cherche me at the airport and hopefully I'll get there before too long.

At least I have an internet connection...once again, thank God for WIFI.

Damn You Stupid Water Bottle!!!!

I just bought a bottle of water for $2, put it down to take out my computer, only to notice 5 minutes later that it had spilled all over the floor.

Grrrrr....now I'm angry AND dehydrated...

Damn You Travelocity!!!!!!!

So I woke up at 5 a.m. today...actually, 4:50 a.m., if you want to be technical (and yes, I do)...

I arrived at the airport for my flight to Seattle, which was supposed to leave at 6:50 a.m...only to discover that the time had been changed to 6:20 a.m., and while I could still get on the plane, my bags could not.

Apparently Travelocity was supposed to have notified me, although I have no recollection of this at all...and definitely no email confirmation.

En plus, the woman at the ticket counter was a total bee-yatch. Like it's my freakin' fault and I had done some horrible thing or whatever.

So now I'm on a later flight that leaves at 9 something. So glad I got up at the butt crack of dawn to be here "on time!".

Now I'm just waiting till it's an acceptable hour in Seattle so I can call my aunt and tell her.

This should be fun.

Off to a great start!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

De "Jambon et Fromage sur Baguette" to "Ham and Cheese on Honey Oat"

Pictures from France

Video clips from France

Well, back in the land of the free and the home of the brave. Or whatever it is.

Everything worked out with the flight back, although I have to admit I was hoping for a storm, or an earthquake, or some other natural disaster that would have cancelled the trip, leaving me no other choice but to stay in Paris for an undetermined amount of time.

Alas, the weather was beautiful, the ground was steady, and in spite of a slight delay, we left Paris with no problem.

On the bright side, I got to the airport early enough to ask for an exit row seat. I had a huge gigantic space right in front of my feet, and when I wasn't sleeping with my legs stretched out in front of me, I was snickering at all the poor suckers around me who were crammed in their little spaces. Haha!

Today I "slept in" until 8, met some friends for coffee, went to buy some unmentionables, then met Robyn, Nate and Anne for lunch at Gueros. Let's hear it for la cuisine mexicaine!

Although I've only been back a day, I'm already taking advantage of those "little things" that I take for granted until I go to foreign countries...like free refills, asking for directions with ease, breaking large bills, and asking for substitutions and exceptions when I order at restaurants. Let's hear it for l'anglais!

Now it's time to unpack, wash clothes, then repack and get to bed early so I can catch my flight to Seattle bright and early tomorrow morning.

I feel like such a jetsetter...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Triste de partir

Well folks, this is the end of the line. I leave for the states tomorrow. I cannot believe how sad I am about it.

Grass is always greener eh?

Today's last day of work ended with a bang, as per usual. We came in with the goal of finishing up all the work by 11, but ended up not leaving until 5ish. Only to return to the building when we realized we forgot something, then stayed another hour when we realized little punk ass kids were stealing things from the trade show stands, including taking a bag labeled "Frozen S***" that contained our security walkie talkies. "Mob mentality" never ceases to amazes me.

In any case. Tonight we have dinner at the Buddah Bar, then I must pack and rise and shine for my flight tomorrow.

Waaaahhh...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Picture Fun


Eiffel Tower at Night
Originally uploaded by verretc.

I'm really pleased with this pic.

City o' Lights


Parisgroup
Originally uploaded by verretc.

Hello all, and sorry for no blog updates these days. My work schedule of 6:30 am to 7 pm has made this impossible. By the time we get back, have dinner and get home, it's already midnight or later, and I do not feel like climbing and descending the winding staircase to the lobby, which is the only place I can access the ol' WIFI.

In spite of my aching feet, I've been having fun. The days have consisted of getting up at the crack of dawn, driving in the big van through Paris rush hour, and arriving at Le Bourget.

From there we zip through security (which is not very good), and go to the Chalet to beg the caterers for coffee (one of the many unexpected dramas we've incurred).

Then we fight all the exhibitors who are demanding an immediate caffeine fix.

Wash, rinse, repeat for all the other days, except in the afternoons, you can add the sound of fighter planes flying overhead.

It's all totally worth it though. Thursday night, I happened to go to a big soiree on the Eiffel Tower (see above picture). Yes, on the same night Tom Cruise proposed to Katie Holmes!!! We didn't see him around though. Which is probably good, because I just want to punch him (and her) in the face.

Food was excellent, dancing was fun, and mingling even better. And halfway through I realized, "I'm at a big fancy party on the Eiffel Tower in Paris."

It doesn't get any better than that.

I leave on Monday and I don't want to go! I've been enjoying speaking French again...it's funny because my shyness of asking questions and that sort of thing seems to have dissappeared...dare I say I'm even thinking I'd be open to living here again one day???

I won't go there...yet.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Ananas Raplaplat

Hello one and all,

Greetings from Paris, which is still insanely busy but fun.

Serving lots and lots of coffee. At first I thought I might start hating coffee by the end of this trip, but that is just not possible.

Also getting to practice my French lots and lots, and in fun situations as well. Last night I was so proud of myself because I was rude right back to our jackass cab driver. I have a hard enough time standing up for myself in my own language, let alone French, so I was quite contente with moi meme.

Yesterday I got to see the brand new Airbus 380 take a spin around the airfield. It was so awesome. Actually, really scary, because when it landed it flew right over my head...but really cool quand meme.

I've been wanting to put a picture of it up here, but for some reason my pictures aren't uploading...so take a look at the video instead.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

La Vie en Rose

So back in Paris...not a lot of time to blog, because now I'm on an early to bed/early to rise schedule...the only problem is I haven't done a lot of early to bed.

Got here around 7 yesterday after a triste goodbye to Lionel, Veronique and Virgile (said good bye to Louise at lunch). Met Patty at the hotel and went with the whole crazy gang to have gallettes/crepes. You can never have enough of those.

Afterwards we went for a long walk and I was reminded why I love Paris, especially in the summer.

This morning we left the hotel at 7:30 for the Le Bourget (sp??) where the airshow is being held. Spent most of the day unpacking and organizing the hospitality room, trying to make the coffee machines work, and yelling at French people for various things, including "why is the carpet green and yellow", and "who was in charge of setting off the evacuation false alarm?" Good thing I had a chance to practice my French these last two weeks.

The excitement of the day was when a mysterious black bag was found and the security team came running out to evacuate people. As it turned out, it was just one of the worker's bags and she was very embarrassed.

At least they're on top o' things.

Tonight we got back around 8ish, and several of us went for pizza. We decided to call it a night early and I'm finally taking advantage of the free wireless in the hotel lobby.

More updates later...must sleep.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Chiant.

First of all, a big shout out to my friend Mike, who called me at 3 a.m. Michigan time just to say hello!

Another shout out to my brother Yves, who turns 30 today!!! Happy Birthday mon frère.

I was again on my own today, so I decided to take a train into La Baule, this cute little town that's right on the Atlantic Ocean.

I've been there a few times...when I was little and we came to France for the first time, Lionel would take us to the beach to swim...I want to say it's actually the first beach I ever went to. I remember wearing my maroon IAC (Indian Acquatic Club) swim suit, digging a huge hole in the sand with Yves, watching it fill with water when the tide came in, then burying Yves in the sand. What I remember most, however, is how fascinated my brother was by all the topless women who were sun bathing. That is, he was excited until he realized that the wrinkly old ladies were walking around topless as well.

In any case, while I have been to the beach in La Baule several times, I have never really walked around town all that much, so I thought since it was such a beautiful day it was time to do it.

I wanted to take a train that left around noonish, but the bus was running late, so by the time I got there, I only had a few minutes. The guy at the ticket counter told me I could probably make it, handed me my ticket, and then I SWEAR to you I heard him say, "Go to Platform 6."

So I hauled ass (RAN) to platform 6, and no sooner had I jumped into the train did the doors close. Phew.

Yes, phew...until...

I started thinking it was bizarre that I was on a TER train when it didn't say anything about that on my ticket...and that this train left a minute later than I thought it was supposed to...

But I kept reassuring myself with the fact that the ticket man told me I left from Platform 6.

Finally, 45 minutes later, when we pulled into some other town and the ocean was nowhere to be seen, I figured I better get off and ask.

I wish I could have taken a picture of the face the guy at the ticket counter made when I told him I was wanting to go to La Baule. Priceless.

Fortunately for me, I hadn't been controlled on the train, so my ticket was still valid. Unfortunately for me, by the time I got back to Nantes, it was already almost 3 p.m., and there wasn't another train to La Baule unti 4.

So I got reimbursed for my ticket, then ended up walking around centre ville again. And to comfort myself, I went back to Kazana, where Louise brought me last Saturday, and bought myself another scarf.

Cheaper than another ticket to La Baule and it'll last longer too.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Dis donc...

This is my expression of the day, and I really can't think of a good translation, but I have managed to hear it no less than one million times today, so voila, it's my blog title.

So today was a bit more interesting than yesterday...I woke up, did my regular promenade with Virgile, then around noonish a friend of Veronique's stopped by for lunch on her way to a meeting or whatever. I had the impression that they were running a bit late, because Vero asked if I could help in the kitchen, which never happens (not because I can't cook mind you).

She took out what were called "Blinis" on the package, but were actually just tiny pancakes, and asked me to cut them in fours, then spread some sort of tuna mix as well as caviar (the cheap kind) on them.

Yech.

I've never eaten caviar or anything similar before, but I have some real issues with fish...I like it, but on my own terms. So it stands to reason I have issues with fish eggs. And don't even get me started on creamy tuna.

Trying to be adventurous, however, I tried the caviar...and really had to think of something else while I ate it.

So been there done that and won't do it again. It's just as well I don't have posh tastes.

After lunch, Lionel took me to the modern art museum, which was free, and very...modern. Kind of cool actually, when it was all said and done. I particularly liked the life sized teddy bear with a gigantic erect penis, made entirely out of cockle burs...all I can say is...OUCH.

We then went to the Médiathèque, which also had an art exhibit, this time of local students. There was no cockle bur penis, but it was still pretty impressive.

After taking a little tour of the building, we went out to a high point the city where Lionel pointed out the different landmarks. Photos were taken, then back in the car to go to a recital at l'Ecole de Musique, where Louise takes flute lessons.

The recital was basically an open house sort of thing where all the instruments were displayed, and all the students, young and old, had a chance to play. I have to say it was pretty damn cute to see some of these little kids get up there and play "Mary Had a Little Lamb" type stuff. Particularly the kids with accordians. Oh la la. You can't get any more French than that. Maybe one of these days I'll see them in the metro.

The best performance of all, however, was the percussion, where several little boys played the bongos, marimba, xylophone, and...THE COW BELL!!!!!!!!!!!! You can never have too much cow bell.

Halfway through the song, the two kids at the marimba started elbowing each other and the audience pretty much forgot about the music.

After the recital, we headed chez Lionel's sister for dinner. What a feast. I love the French way of eating, yet at the same time, I think I'm too American to do it in moderation. I think it's because at the beginning I don't realize how much food we're actually going to be eating, and by the end of the meal, my pants are splitting open.

Actually, no, I take that back...it's actually very deceiving, because there are such lengthy pauses in between courses, that even if your buttons are popping open, your food starts to digest. Then, in spite of having just told yourself you are not going to eat anything else, by the time they pull out the platter of cheese you think, "Fromage? Of course I'll have some fromage!"

In addition, you also think "Hell I'm in France! Il faut manger some good cheese!!"

So voilà, my dilemma this entire week.

In any case, here was the menu tonight:

Apéro: little croustillants, chèvre wrapped in ham, red peppers stuffed with tuna (yeesh).

Entrée: melon, ham, and bread.

Plat: all kinds of pork grillades: pork filet, merguez and smoked sausage.

Fromage: the most amazing chèvre I've ever tasted and brie.

Dessert: fromage blanc (yesssss) with fresh strawberies and cherries.

Keep in mind that yes, this is a lot of food, but ideally the French eat it all in small portions...

That, so far is the proverbial fly in the ointment.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

La Reine? C'est Moi.

Hi all,

Still no big things to report. Today was mostly spent in the kitchen making the best red beans and rice anyone has ever tasted. Seriously. I even managed to impress the hell out of myself.

Woke up this morning and after breakfast and coffee time, I took Virgile the dog for a real long walk. Since Veronique insists on feeding me like a Jewish mother, I need to have some sort of physical activity. There are a few parks around the neighborhood that are really scenic...En plus, today was a beautiful day.

After we got back, Virgile conked out on the floor exhausted, and I got lunch ready for Louise. Got a chance to talk on the phone to my friend Nanci, then I started the red beans and rice fun.

Vero came home around 6, and took me grocery shopping with her. The one thing I do miss in France is grocery shopping (surprise surprise). I just like looking around at all the different stuff...particularly the dairy aisle...and it's especially fun to go with Veronique, who is not only kind enough to point out interesting/different things, but is also the cheese MASTER. I never actually went to a fromagerie before because I was too scared, but watching Vero in action...wow. She must have bought 6 different kinds of cheese...brie, roquefort, chevre, feta, and a couple other things I didn't know. I tip my hat to her.

We got back around 8 and I busted out the red beans. I also introduced them to garlic bread...REAL garlic bread, meaning grated garlic mixed with real butter. A hit...a big grand hit.

I'm just mad at myself because we ate out in their yard and the weather was so nice and I forgot to take pictures. Dammit!

Tomorrow Lionel is taking me out to do some little touristy things.

Excellente.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Loooooooooonely...I'm so looooooooonely...


Dinner au Petit Ours
Originally uploaded by verretc.

Louise bought the CD of that crazy "Lonely" song on Saturday, and has been listening to it NON STOP for three days now. It's in everybody's head. Lionel was even whistling it while he did the dishes tonight.

Nothing really interesting to write about today, so thought I'd start posting some pictures instead. This one is of me and Christelle at the Petit Ours in Strasbourg, the best restaurant ever.

Today everyone was either in school or working; this morning I took Virgile the dog for a walk, got dressed, puttered around, had lunch with Louise, then walked around Centre Ville for awhile.

Had a gallette/crepe, did some grocery shopping and stocked up on good coffee, which is amazingly cheap here...2 euros something, while I'd pay almost $10 in the states. Rock.

Tomorrow I'm making red beans and rice for everybody...or I'm going to try, anyway. You can't get all the ingredients you need in France, but I at least found red beans, and on va se debrouiller.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Redemption.


Fete du Velo
Originally uploaded by verretc.

So I've finally made up for my panic-ridden moment of embarrassment in San Francisco--I succeeded in participating in the annual Fete du Velo!

I also succeeded in driving Lionel's little Rover all around Centre Ville, with the help of my navigator Louise.

Despite my prayers, we did not wake up to rain this morning. At breakfast, Lionel and Veronique asked me if I wanted to do the Fete du Velo, that they were cool either way etc.

So I decided to be brave and say "Why not, as long as you guys are patient with me."

Then they decided since they all had bikes and I would have to rent one, that I could drive their car over to the starting point.

I drive a stick shift, but Lionel's car is from the 80's, plus I have never driven in France and the whole idea really freaked me out, but I put on a brave face and said, "Let's do it."

Louise pointed me exactly where to go, we went around double rond points sans probleme, we arrived sans probleme, parallel parked sans probleme, and went to go rent a bike.

We also had to rent a kiddie seat for Virgile the dog to ride in, so I ended up taking Vero's bike, which was very nice and easy.

The scenery was nice, and I didn't fall, not one single time, and at the end I was sorry to be finished.

That is, until I got off the bike and couldn't walk.

Still, I might consider buying one when I return to Austin.

Afterwards, Louise and I got back to the maison first and crashed, Lionel and Veronique came back later, then company came for an apéro, then dinner.

Now, sleep.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Happy Birfday Me

I turn 26 today. Hooray!

Bizarrely enough, I am once again in France for my birthday. I've had 4 birthdays in France: my tenth, celebrated in our garden in Champtoceaux, my 21st, celebrated in Paris in Indian Restaurant Alley, and my 25th. Last year at this time, I had just handed Foncia back the keys to 12 place St. Etienne and then proceeded to wander around Strasbourg, get a haircut, and have dinner at Le Petit Ours with Meghan and Christelle. Afterwards, Meg and I stayed at a hotel and then left early the next morning to return to the States.

It was actually kind of a depressing day, except for the Petit Ours part. En plus, it's kind of bizarre to think about how much things have changed in a year.

But anyway, blah blah blah whatever.

Today Veronique's adorable niece and nephew came over, along with Vero's mom. We had lunch together, then went shopping in Centre Ville.

My mission was to find scarves in particular colors, and Louise, the shopping maven, brought me to the perfect place. I got exactly what I wanted, and we then proceeded to walk around centre ville, bumping into a huge gay pride rally along the way. There were three big floats playing YMCA, with a bunch of teenagers dancing suggestively on them. Not really sure what that was all about. These were followed by a group carrying a huge rainbow flag, followed by stragglers, and enfin a group of drag queens on another float.

When we had enough of goggling, Louise took me to her favorite store, which was basically like a regular American store that is young and trendy, and in which I always feel super uncomfortable, because I am neither. Except let's just double the uncomfortable part, because it was in France.

Although on the trendy part, I happen to own a pair of Van shoes that I got on sale in Austin for $20, and which (according to Louise)happen to be très à la mode right now in France. I was really excited about that, until I realized that part of the style is to not tie up the laces, but rather tuck them in the shoe.

So I'm nulle on that part as well.

Since they fit her, I told Louise she could borrow them for the week.

After shopping, we just puttered around the house, had dinner, and I decided to finally catch up on my emails.

Tomorrow, if the weather is nice, we're going to do the Fete de Velo, this big event where they shut down a road and everyone prends a pique-nique and rides their bike.

After my bike experience in San Francisco (check out the March 2005 archive), I have to say I'm sort of hoping for rain.

But we'll see how it goes.

Your lil' Tessie needs to shut the hell up!

Hello from Nantes mes amis.

Just to give a brief summary of the rest of my sejour in Strasbourg...Nothing very eventful happened. I had lunch again with Eliane, walked around a bit, and hung out with Christelle for awhile chatting.

I did return to place St. Etienne one more time in an attempt to see F-head. I swear to God I heard his annoying voice, but couldn't seem to pick him out of the crowd. So alas and alack, maybe next time.

Also interesting to report is that Strasbourg now has a Subway. As in the sandwich chain. Which they were building right when I left. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to eat there before I took off...not enough meals in the day. But I did take a picture in front of the place, so voila.

The highlight of my last day in Strasbourg was dinner with Christelle at Le Petit Ours, my favorite restaurant in the world. Honestly. Chris and I ordered salad with goat cheese (wrapped in tortillas with sauce) along with a small brochette of chicken and quinoa. That was just the entree.

For the plat, I got pintade (some sort of game bird) with cumin and other random stuff and these crazy Alsacian potato noodles; and Chris had veal wrapped en croute with potatoes and crazy spices. Halfway through we switched plates. She also got a dessert which looked most excellent.

Ahh, le Petit Ours...until next time.

I'm also proud to say I did not eat any choucroute or pork product of any kind.

I took off Friday morning for Nantes, and got to enjoy a big group of Americans on the train...to loosely quote David Sedaris, the kind of Americans who make other Americans cringe.

They were, of course, loud, and had a bratty baby named Tessie who was the spoiled kid I have ever seen, who they permitted to jump from seat to seat, and who had the amazing power to make all the other children in the train cry right along with her.

Perhaps more annoying, however, was Tessie's grandmother, who insisted on saying her name every 5 seconds.

Oh la la.

I arrived in Nantes around 6 and was met by Louise, who I barely recognized now that she's an official teenager. We got some coffee then were picked up to go to a soiree at Lionel and Veronique's colleagues house.

After a long apéro of fresh veggies, snackies and orange juice with champagne (just juice for me), we sat down to a buffet of chicken, turkey with fig halves around it, potato salad, tomatoes farcies, charcuterie, melon and etc etc etc.

Mmmm.

Then le fromage, then dessert...melon balls in martini glasses soaked in champagne (just fruit straight up for me) and some unbelievable looking gateau. Since I no longer eat sugar I could only admire but it was typically French.

Typically French down to the 5 hours we spent eating and talking.

It's great to be back.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Day Three Wrap-Up

Greetings earthlings,

Trying to hurry since I've spent the last hour responding to emails and trying to re-learn where everything is on the French keyboard. Oy vey.

Yesterday was very full, but very fun. I met up with Eliane, one of the English teachers at my school, and we had lunch at this Italian place called Francesca's. Very very yummy, and we ate on the terrace which is just so French and just so sympa.

We were joined by this other lady who also taught at my school last year who I didn't know all that well. She liked to use the F word. A lot.

After f-ing lunch, Eliane f-ing asked if I wanted to go buy fresh f-ing asperagus, as the f-ing season is almost f-ing over, and I thought "why the f*** not?"

So we went out to the country to this crazy little farmhouse that was full of asperges. After buying a bundle she decided to take me to this factory outlet type store to go shopping.

I. Racked. Up. I got linen pants, capris, a shirt, sandals, and a purse for 45 euros!!!!!!! Can I tell you how much that rules??

I had enough to time to run back to the apartment, change, then run out again to meet Françoise (another English teacher from my school) for dinner. I managed to get incredibly lost along the way and was thus 30 minutes late. D'oh!

She was forgiving though, and we had the best meal, also on their terrace. Asperges, quail stuffed with pruneaux, rice and vegetables, and fresh melon.

Yum-my.

Today is my last full day in Strasbourg, so i'm going to do my last bit of running around and picture taking. I stopped by 12 place St Etienne again yesterday, but still no sign of F-head or the pink couch. Or the chains of fire. To my horror though, I saw that the Doner Kebab man whose shop was underneath our apartment had closed down. It made me sad...they were so nice.

And it also made me wonder if he closed down because Meg and I moved and were no longer buying his frites.

En tout cas, tomorrow I'm leaving for sea and sun and going to visit friends in Bretagne. Nantes, to be specific. That is, I'm leaving if my train is running...I just saw there's an SNCF grève...Ah, it just wouldn't be a complete experience in France without a grève.

Have a happy Thursday everyone!

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Dueling Thomases

So, here are the results of Tuesday, my first full day in Strasbourg:

Cell phones set up: 1
Grande café crèmes drunk: 1
Dinners à la Française eaten: 1
Pictures of creepy spiders viewed: 1
Guys named Thomas met: 2

Here's a more detailed lowdown:

I slept late. Late for me, anyway, until 11 a.m. I ate breakfast while Christelle ate lunch, and after she left for work, I finally decided to take a shower (it had been awhile) and schlep my ass to the cell phone store.

Except the cell phone store wasn't where it used to be. So that was my first "everything has changed" freak-out of the day.

So when I finally found another store, I bought my SIM card, gave the sales guy my old 12 place St. Etienne address, and decided it was time for a little grand café crème action.

Finally.

A few people have emailed and asked what a grand café crème is. Ah, young grasshopper...it's basically two shots of espresso, which is either infused with steamed milk, or comes with a side of milk, or even better...real cream.

I could just drink it plain if I had to though...and I think France is the only place I could do that.

In any case, after some good caffeine action, I went to 12 place St. Etienne. No F-head, malheureusement. But the usual riffraff was there. As were drapes in my windows.

I'm going to keep checking back on F-head--don't give up hope yet.

At that point I met Christelle back at the apartment, we faired des courses (grocery shopped) then went to her friend Thomas' apartment for dinner.

In addition to the spectacular view from his apartment (which allowed us to see the mountains in the Black Forest and the Vosges on the other side), he made this awesome provençale dish with fresh vegetables and lardons over rice, and fresh fruit for dessert. A foreign man who can cook *and* has a room with a view...Mmmm.

After watching Eddie Murphy's "Delirious" (boy, that brought back memories) everyone got tired of me being the only one who was able to understand, and they decided it was time for the picture show.

Thomas grew up in La Réunion, and since Christelle is going to be teaching there this fall, he showed us all kind of crazy beautiful pictures. Made me real jealous, until I saw the picture of a gigantic creepy-ass spider that likes to hang out and eat bugs on people's ceilings ("Don't worry, it's not poisonous!!").

Thomas was even kind enough enlarge the picture for us so he could show us the gigantic sack where it stores its gigantic eggs, since it doesn't spin a gigantic web (dommage).

We finally had enough and went back to Christelle's. We had just said goodnight when the doorbell rang, and low and behold, another Thomas was on the doorstep with a sleeping bag.

At least Chris knew him and for reasons unknown to me (i.e., I was too lazy to pay attention) Thomas crashed on the floor with me.

That was all fine and dandy, except Thomas liked to talk. A lot. About really light subjects, like politics, and George Bush, and the image of America in the world (deja vu all over again). And everytime there was a convenient pause and I started to drift off...he would start again.

He was at least nice, and even offered to share his special "cigarette" with me, but I'm not that kind of girl, and I really just wanted to sleep.

Finally, at 4 in the morning there was silence.

But all in all a good day.

Today should be an action packed day...lunch with Eliane (English prof at school) dinner with Françoise (ditto) and some errands to run to boot.

Updates demain.