Wednesday, 5 March 2008

managing to get up early these days. Mostly.

I can't remember when I wrote last...I think it was Thursday night. Things have been a bit uneventful since then because I came down with a cold on Friday, but I'm sure I'll still manage to write an ocean. I feel like that Monty Python character who eats too much only I'm spewing out words. Well, I'm sure the forests are grateful for the invention of the blog at least...

I really can't remember Friday at all. I think I went to class, and then went straight home to try sleep. We watched La Mome in class, which I didn't understand at all. Oh hang on. I've already written about this. I must've written something on Friday.

Saturday then. Saturday I slept in because I was sick, and then made a laksa pilgrimage into the city to try and rid myself of all the snot accumulating in my head. (Sorry, that was a charming turn of phrase, but true so I'm leaving it). I arrived too late for soup - all the restaurants close at 2pm, so I got crepes instead. Funnily enough just like at home it seems to be the pancakes places that are open all hours. I had a crepe with lemon and sugar, and sorry to disappoint, but my mum's are better than the real French ones. Well, maybe that's not disappointing - it's closer for most of you. I also went to the ginormous supermarket to buy some citrus. They have counter where you put your fruit on the scales and then a man prints out a barcode for you. I've decided not to buy fruit from there anymore, because I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to put each separate type of fruit in a separate plastic bag. No, mademoiselle, it's not possible to just stick the barcode straight on your one orange. What a bleeding waste. Kind of ironic since they don't let you have carry bags for free at the checkout.

On Sunday I was still sick so I slept in again. And again I went in search for soup, but all the restaurants were closed because it was Sunday, so I went for the closest thing open which was Indian. I had a Palak Paneer which was nice but a bit Frenchified (I'm sure there was cream in it) and I had a chat with the waiter, which was fine until I asked if there was an Indian/Asian grocer in the city where I could buy spices, and he invited me to his house to have some of his. Um...?

I headed to the big cinema to see the new Coen Brothers movie ' No Country for Old Men' and on the way came across a parade! It was kind of like a poor-man's Christmas Pageant but I have no idea what it was in aid of. I asked a lady and she pretty much gave me the French equivalent of 'just because'. It was a bit lame because the floats were mostly pretty home-made, but it was also kind of fun, because the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed - if you wanted to cross the parade, you just ran across, and some of the people marching were letting off little fireworks. There were also African drumming troupes marching, and which looked like great fun. There were surprisingly a lot of them, and if I was sure I was staying here, I think I'd look into joining one, although ironically I think I'm too European to qualify...

On Monday I went to my new class (they change each month). There's only 6 people (including myself) in this class - three people from my last class, plus a German girl and another Australian! Woo! Actually it's a bit sad how excited I got to meet someone from home, which is silly really, considering there's no more reason for me to be able to relate to him more than any other stranger, but it did make me feel a little bit less isolated. The new teacher is nice, and being in such a small class is great, but I actually feel like the work is easier than last month and I don't think it's just that I'm getting better. Hopefully things will pick up, because at the moment I'm learning things I learnt 6 months ago in Australia...

After Monday's class I went (and figured out!) La Poste. It turns out that it's not at all like Australia Post in that they don't penalise you for wrapping your parcels in whatever you want, and in fact it seems to be the better way to do things. The ONLY bags/boxes that they sell are the pre-paid ones which are not a good deal because chances are that whatever you put in them is much less than the maximum weight that you pay for. If you just rock up with a parcel wrapped in whatever though, you just get charged by weight. On the downside though, it's not very clear where you're supposed to buy boxes and packing material, and as far as I can tell bubble wrap is an extremely specialist product in France because no-one can tell me where to buy it. If anyone ever sends me anything, please include extra bubble wrap. In fact I'm thinking of opening a shop selling aloe vera tissues, bubble wrap and lined notebooks (I can't find anything but graph paper here). I'd make a fortune. Or enough to keep me in macarons at least.

After La Poste I finally managed to make it to a Thai restaurant in time to order some soup. No laksa though, so I had to have tom yum. When I asked the waitress if they made laksa, she had no idea what I was talking about, and when I clumsily tried to explain in French that it's a Thai/Malaysian soup with coconut milk and noodles I didn't get very far. She was like 'oh! it's the other tom yum with the coconut milk. Didn't you see it on the menu?'. No, no it's not. Listen lady, the white girl from Australia knows what she's talking about and it's a DIFFERENT soup! Lucky I learnt to make it before I left home, hey. Especially lucky because there was pineapple in the tom yum. Yes, the kind of pineapple that's NOT a vegetable. Where do they think they are? Australia? (If so they should've put bacon and beetroot in too). I've also come to the conclusion that the French only eat soup as an entree (ie. you can only buy teeny serves) and they can't handle chili at ALL. I asked for a double serve of soup which cost me 6 coffees and it was at least half the size of a normal asian soup at home. Also, the menu promised spicy and IT WAS NOT SPICY. I had to shovel in loads of the provided chili paste because even that was not spicy. Actually my Indian curry was not hot either - and the waiter actually asked if it was too hot. Um? There's chili in here? Actually I should've caught on when my host mother complained that the pre-marinated bbq chicken wings she made were too spicy and she couldn't eat them. Come to think of it, I don't think they even sell chillis in the supermarket. Add that to the inventory in my shop.

Yesterday I treated myself to a coffee and croissant breakfast because I got up too late to make myself any wellness flakes. It feels quite fancy having that in a cafe, but I have to say the croissants are not really any better than (good) croissants from home. Although who's to say I haven't just had bad croissants here. Later I went to Monoprix for some honey and lemons for some hot drinks and I've decided it's my supermarket of choice because you don't have to weigh your own stupid fruit. I also picked up a brochure of historic walks of Bordeaux (in French AND English! Yay!) and in search of macaron props discovered a lovely lovely lovely (expensive) chocolate shop. They make all their own things I think, and it was a bit like Haighs only older and prettier and Frenchier. They had lots of chocolates in big old heavy jars, and candied petals and pretty china and their own macarons which looked a bit more rustic than that Baillardran ones but in prettier colours even.

Today I went for a coffee with the Australian, the German and the Dutch lady from my class, and it was really nice to actually do a bit of socialising. I've been doing my own thing a lot (which is fine, but mainly because I haven't had a lot of choice in the matter) and it was really nice to just sit around and have a chat (in English). We went to this bizarre little cafe with leopard-skin poufs and fake cacti, which turned out to be the French version of Starbucks. Hilariously enough it's called 'French Coffee Shop' (no, I didn't translate that). I've seen it before and I was duh? I actually had a mint milkshake which was very nice, but the French obviously have a slightly different concept of a milkshake, because I would've called it a frappe or something...icy-slushy-milky anyway. After that I had lunch with the Dutch lady (my d.i.y. sandwich) and then frittered around for an hour or two doing the macaron and checking my email (and gofugyourself...gee I miss having the time to read trashy internet sites). I headed to the tram and realised that it would probably be an ideal time to climb the Cathedral tower which is right next to my tramstop.

I thought the tower was actually part of the Cathedral St-Andre - although they're separated by maybe 10 or 20 metres, I sort of assumed they were connected by the crypts underground. I don't know, maybe they are, but it's actually called the Tour Pey-Berland. It was a bit of a climb up to the top (yay, Napier building practice) but it was a pretty great view. It was particularly cool to see the cathedral itself from above, but it was also nice to see the city spread out below. Old tiled red roofs and chimney pots dominate, and it's amazing to see that the tallest buildings in Bordeaux are still some of the oldest - the churches and the gates. There's not a lot of new high rise in Bordeaux, and it really does make you realise exactly how much of an undertaking it must've been to build those structures so long ago. It was a beautiful clear day, but very very windy up there though, and although I'm not particularly afraid of heights (well, no more so than anything else that I could die from, anyway), I realised when I got down that I was shaking a bit. I think I was mostly scared of dropping my camera and killing someone...

The latest on the phone is that the email is officially dead for a while. I've managed to make the internet work now (without the help of the Orange people, who are not calling when they're supposed to, or if they do it's not an English speaking employee like they promised) but it won't let me open gmail. Which is all very annoying since I've paid for it (and how!), but at least now I'm not going through credit like it's money. Ha. Ha. Ha. I've gotten into the habit of taking my laptop with me each day though, so I'm getting emails regularly, but if there's something urgent an sms is the way to go I'm afraid.

The only other news is that my Anthropologie jeans are still oozing blue (ha! maybe they're just mimicking their owner!) - after three repeats of the salt treatment. Any other suggestions anyone? I'm thinking about taking them to a dry cleaner and seeing if they can do anything, but it's a bit of an undertaking since the dry cleaners here all speak French...

Tomorrow I think I'm going to go to the Bordeaux-American potluck - apparently lots of English speaking business people go, so maybe I can find myself a job. And on Saturday I'm going to St-Emilion (medieval village nearby) with a tour organised by the school. Which worked out well for me, since I'd just decided to go on Saturday anyway and this will be much easier and hopefully include some things that I wouldn't see on my own.

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