Tuesday, 11 March 2008

writing a blog about nothing.

This week has been really quite a big one...although maybe it just seems that way because this week I made an effort to note down what I did each day, so I haven't already forgotten it all already.

On Thursday after my class, I randomly bumped into Kara, an American au pair that I met a few weeks ago at the USA-Bordeaux association conversation class. We hung out and wandered around the city, which was fun. We went to a little supermarket because I needed some food, and pfaffed around for ages talking about the differences in what's available here, in the US and at home (in a word: Cadbury). Although the pfaffing probably had more to do with me being indecisive about what to buy for the USA-Bordeaux potluck that evening. I went because I thought it might be a good place to make some possible job-giving contacts. I didn't really have a heap of fun, because there were loads and loads of people there and mingling with strangers isn't really my thing. I did meet another Aussie girl who's working in a British pub and suggested that is probably my best bet at finding a job. I also met a man who lectures at the conservatoire here, who invited me to a concert, and who told me that there's a really good bassoonist here named Jean Marie Lamothe who maybe I can have some lessons with. He even plays German bassoon (!) and a quick google told me he's played with the Ensemble Intemporcorain. Hang on. Let's try that again. Ensemble Contemporain? Intercontemporain. In the struggle to learn French, I'm losing my English and ending up with neither language. It's really quite the problem. Although I guess worse things happen at sea. Anyway, I think he's also played with Pierre Boulez and Frank Zappa. Fingers crossed. I also met a man who made disparaging noises when I told him that we have a large Sudanese population in Adelaide, and he had a big whinge about how horrible the English are. Nice. I also met a French lady who said that anglo accents are actually considered quite pretty, and that I shouldn't make too much of an effort to lose mine. Although it only works to a point: I think 'jay swees Australian, parlay voos anglaiz?' is not appreciated.

On Friday I ran for the bus AGAIN. Seriously it doesn't matter when I get up, the bus always seems to be 300m ahead of me. I think although they're cleaner, more reliable and just generally less rubbish than the Adelaide buses, they still are liable to follow the timetable 'give or take'. The little garcon helped me make my lunch, and he helpfully 'prepared' my fruit box for me. Which meant I had a fruit box for breakfast and a different fruit box for lunch. I had coffee after lunch with the Dutch lady from my class, and we had a big heart to heart which was really nice. We also randomly had coffee in a little teapot shop, and I think we may've found the cheapest coffee in the city, because it cost less for 4 coffees than it usually costs for two. Maybe it's a loss leader.... and they even roast their own beans! After that I did the Macaron-of-the-Day which has left me with a coconut (suggestions anyone?) and then I went to the train station to buy a 12-25 card, which for 25 espressos gives me 20-60% off French long distance train rides for 1 year, which is somewhat better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick in my humble opinion. I was having a bit of a emo day, so I treated myself to a chocolate from the Bayonne Atelier and christ on a cracker if that didn't cheer me up! I chose a 'bouchette' in a banana flavour. It was a dark chocolate block a bit smaller than an altoids tin but significantly bigger than a matchbox, filled with banana and rum flavoured dark chocolate ganache. With treats like that I am surely in the right country after all!

Saturday was the day for the St Emilion trip. First thing we went to a winery in the region (Chateau Quercy) which was nice, but I'm getting a bit over winery tours (if not the wine). There's only so many times you can hear about how wine is made in a language you don't understand. Also, in my experience they're frigidly cold places and once I can't feel my feet my ability to concentrate on deciphering what's going on dramatically drops, and on this occasion I was so cold I wanted to hit the man who kept asking questions in the head. The wine that we got to try at the end was very nice though - I would say the nicest that I've had so far (not that I've had a lot yet) - although 10am is really TOO early for boozing. We arrived at St Emilion around lunchtime (it's 60km from Bordeaux) by which time it was beautiful beautiful weather and I wandered around with the anglaises for a bit. It's a little medieval village, and it's just beautiful and I think wandering is as good a way to see it as any. The streets are steep and cobbled though, so it was a bit hairy at times. We stopped for a canele and it was the freshest one I've had and it was so great - almost custardy in the middle and still warm. After an hour or two of wandering we went on a tour of the underground of the city. There's tunnels under the village for miles and miles, because it's a rocky area so they quarried it all and then built over the top (don't know how that works structurally but I'm not dead so I guess it's ok). Most of it's not open to the public because lots of it's used (and blocked off) by wineries who use it for storage because it's the perfect temperature and humidity year round. We saw St Emilion's hermit cave (he was a hermit...with disciples...and apparently his first claim to fame was changing bread to wood to avoid getting caught after stealing said bread...interesting...of course this is French information filtered through my brain so I could be a bit off) and the catacombs and an underground church, which is the biggest in Europe carved out of a single piece of rock (ie. the hillside). It was all very interesting and atmospheric. Afterward we sat in the sunshine next to the hillside church and I had a cup of Earl Grey (and I had to ask for milk) and a herb omelette. I don't usually like omelettes, because I don't actually like eggs that much, but now I can attest to the fact that (unlike the crepes) the French actually do know how to do them better. All in all it was a very nice way to spend a day and was a good second step (after Friday's chocolate) in convincing me that this is not such a bad place to be.

Sunday turned out to be a good third step, because lots of things went right. I went to my regular cafe to skype Mum, and she told me that Tim found my favourite ring ever that I lost 6 months ago and thought was gone for good. Then a nice old man at the table next door ordered some teeny cakes and offered me one - it was coconutty and good. Really, the French seem to know how to deal with that particular fruit properly. Nut. Whatever. I met Kara again for the afternoon, and we wandered past this cool looking cafe and then I realised that on the newly painted window they were advertising Asian food. And not French asian food, but the greatest hits of Australian-Asian food - ie. there were about 8 things on the menu and among them were: laksa, pho, red curry, stir fried veg, pad thai, lassi. Oh happiness you are mine again. ALL the foods that I thought I wouldn't find in Bordeaux all in the one little restaurant. And a COOL little restaurant at that - all 50s with those moulded Eames chairs with the zigzaggy metal legs, and a sandpit in the bathroom. I had the laksa, which wasn't the best I've ever eaten, and at 5 coffees significantly pricier than at home, but I don't even care because it tasted like it was meant to, and it was proper asian soup size, and it was just what I wanted. After lunch we walked around a bit more, and since Kara's been here for a lot longer than me we actually saw some great things. She showed me where the Bordeaux equivalent of the Central Markets is (although we were too late and it was closed for the day) and then we went and had a real mint tea at this Moroccan place. It was the proper stuff, made with fresh mint and sugar - just like at the Moroccan soup bar in Melbourne, only you get a really big glass, and for less than an expresso. Happ-i-ness. We ended the day with a trip to the Virgin Megastore (to get out of the rain) and I found the Mika cd which I'd been wanting on sale, and also found that in France you CAN buy the old Tintin cartoons which I loved as a teenager on DVD, and I'm pretty sure it comes with the French AND English options. Unfortunately the episodes are sold separately, and I was hoping for a box set, but I guess you can't have everything. Apparently TinTin is actually a bit rascist, and thus controversial in France (similar to Enid Blyton in English I would imagine). Who knew!

Yesterday (Monday) we had a new teacher in class, which is much better and we started learning the conditional which is good, because although I learnt it before, I really feel like it's something that I'm not confident with, but am finding I need it often. After class I went to the big bookshop (bought a French grammar book, IN FRENCH) with Andrew, the other Australian in my class, and after that I introduced him to the macarons and we had a coffee. It's so silly that it's comforting to hang out with someone from home, even though I don't know him...somehow it feels different than making a new friend from anywhere else. It's also funny how here you seem to skip a few months in the friendships here. I guess it's because everyone's on their own and fumbling for friends so you cut to the chase a lot quicker, but we had a good chat about life, love and the universe, and it was good to get stuff out of my system, as well as have the opportunity to listen to someone else's stuff for a change instead of my own noisy head. After that, I went back to the cool Asian place and had a chai (not so good but at least they HAD it) and used my computer (yes, they have free wifi too). I went to the supermarket in the afternoon and bought two more Tintin books, because I'm nearly finished the last one (only took me 6 weeks!). Funnily enough, the supermarket is the cheapest place to buy them. I got the first one at about 30% cheaper than the bookstore. In the evening I went to the concert at the conservatoire that the man from Thursday invited me to. Holy mackerel was it modern. It started in the foyer of the building (which had a special garden for the occasion i *think*) with three saxophones improvising with multiphonics, quarter tones etc. Then these girls popped up from behind the garden and started doing all this spoken word stuff. Then the whole thing kind of moved upstairs and around the building and eventually we all just followed them into the next building, where it sort of carried on the same way, but on a stage and with cellos as well and more actors. It felt a bit like a happening, except of course that it was advertised in advance. I have no idea what it was about because functional French is still a challenge, let alone poetry (and probably bizarre modern poetry at that) for two hours. There were heaps of people in the audience though - well over 100 I would say. I wouldn't go so far as to say I enjoyed it, but it was certainly interesting and not something that I can imagine floating at home.

Today I am exhausted because I spent the afternoon job hunting. I finally got off my bum and stopped procrastinating, but I tried 6 English pubs in the city and no joy yet. Still, it was kind of good, because I saw a lot of the city. Because my direction was determined by something as random as where the next pub was, I saw lots of little streets and corners that I wouldn't've otherwise found, and I came across lots of cool little places and shops. It was a lot of walking though, and I'm completely worn out. After the job hunting I went to H&M which is my new favourite shop because it is cheeeeep (even by Australian standards) and they have lots of cool cool clothes. I bought some skinny jeans (gasp!) and a nice black jacket (3/4 but lighter than a coat and funkier than a suit). I could've bought about 50 tops but I restrained myself. i'd also like to buy some cute canvas keds-type shoes, which shouldn't be hard because there seems like quite a lot of cheap and cheerful ones around the place. Hooray! I was beginning to think I was just going to have to keep wearing the same outfits until I could afford the Hermes (although if anyone wants to buy me one of their scarves, please be my guest). The only other news is that I figured out what the coloured drinks are that come in the beer glasses. Beer with cordial! You can get all sorts of fancy flavours. I think maybe raspberry is the most popular and some green one, but I've seen banana on the menu so I will have to try that soon. I always liked the coopers with brown lime at home, so this seems to me to be a very sensible extension of that idea. Oh! And I arrived at the house to mail! Hurrah! It really is extremely exciting getting mail from home - like a little hug everytime I open a new letter!

In general things are going ok, although I'm freaking out a bit about the no job/apartment situation. The family here is getting a pool put in, so at the moment, since it's been raining for about 3 days straight now (and I lost my second umbrella in a week today, although it was a very good example of why you should pay more than four coffees for an umbrella) the front yard is pretty much one big mudbath. It's quite treacherous getting to the gate. I have taught the little garcon how to handball with a little kid-sized rugby ball he has. He's quite good, and I found a video of Andrew McLeod explaining the concept on YouTube which helped a lot. Although I'm not completely convinced he's clear that it's not actually a rugby tactic and that Australian football is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT GAME. Actually on the latter, he's no different than any other French person that I've met. Also, Easter is apparently coming, because all the shops have pretty displays in the windows (at least there's no more Valentine's day stuff) and they're doing a better job than at home. The specialist chocolatiers have amazing animals (there's a life sized rooster in one) and the displays are really impressive. Which is making it even harder to not buy MORE chocolate (I'm getting enough daily by default via the standard French diet). Yikes!

That is all.
For now.

1 comment:

Elsie said...

What a lot of news. A very tasty addition to my lunch :)