Sunday, 27 April 2008

learning English grammar.

Well, it's been a jam packed couple of days.

On Wednesday night, Nhan and I did indeed go to the Louvre, and my new youth card got us both in for free. Nice. That place is absolutely HUGE, which is obvious from the outside, but it really doesn't hit home until you get inside. There's a Virgin megastore in there. Really. We had about 5 things we particularly wanted to see and it took us about 2 hours. Luckily I can go back. As many times as I want. The decoration of the building itself is beautiful - many rooms have lavishly gilded and painted ceilings and wrought iron doors and gates. We saw the Mona Lisa which was amazing - it really does have an awesome presence in the room, but unfortunately you can't get within about 5 metres of it and there's glass over the canvas so for all that you can see, it could be a poster. We also saw the section which is still furnished as it would've been, which was incredibly incredibly beautiful. It's huge and the furniture is so rich and ornate. The funny thing was that the bedroom (one of the Louis' I think) had a huge four poster bed which looked completely out of proportion because of its short length.

On the way into the Louvre we had crepes (or more specifically, a gauffret [like a waffle] with stupid amounts of cream in Nhan's case) and dinner (and Nhan had a pink beer) and a man tried to pick Nhan up in typical French style by telling her she was 'charming' and 'magnificent'. Very funny.

Thursday was spent getting Nhan on the train, which I did not do well at, because she missed it and had to catch the next one. It turns out you have to know which platform the Eurostar leaves from, and waiting for the number to come up on the departure boards is a bad idea. Oh the French. Also, Nhan bought a sandwich and a drink for a set price, but the horrible lady behind the counter charged her the price for the two added together (more) because she asked for them separately and didn't ask for the deal. OH the French. I think that inspired my to get moving on learning more French because I just didn't have the vocab to tell her what a cow she was being. While we were having lunch waiting for the train, I tried Fosters for the first time, and realised why no one drinks it at home.

On Friday morning I went to the Foreigners' office to show them my visa saying I can work with a letter promising me a job to get a letter saying I can work so I can get a contract to actually work. Oh the French. I was expecting it to be a total nightmare, but with typical French efficiency they had two people working to serve a line of about 50 people, but one of them was dealing with European citiziens and students, and one was dealing with everybody else. Of whom there were two. So that worked out quite well. Since I had time up my sleeve, I went hunting for a chocolate shop I'd heard was great, which unfortunately turned out to be closed, but it was ok because I came across the Moulin Rouge on the way. I went and bought a dress (for the girls: navy blue, short sleeves, bubble skirt with pockets) a train ticket, did more English training, wrangled the photocopier, and finally made it back to the chocolate shop - 'L'Etoile d'Or' in Montmartre. It was an expensive visit, but I'm glad I made the effort to get there, because it really is lovely - move over chocolate world. I bought some gifts, as well as some bergamot flavoured lollies (like a cross between earl grey and barley sugar) a few Bernachon truffles (which I stupidly missed in Lyon - one of the few places in the world to make chocolate starting with the actual cocoa beans) which I'm savouring day by day. The lady who owns it is a real character with pigtails and a kilt and was happy to chat to (or chat at, since my French is still not that great) at me for ages. She made me eat a Peach truffle in the shop to see if I would like it since it's her favourite, and she tied all of the bags with a little ribbon, even the ones that I'd told her were just for me.

In the evening I made Anzac biscuits, which was the only thing I could think of to do for the day. I was a bit scared that French flour wouldn't work, so I bought the strongest I could find, and I think it was overkill because they came out very crunchy. Strangely enough the hardest ingredient to find was rolled oats - I went to 4 supermarkets and begged at a bakery before I finally found some! I'm not totally sure that the bicarb soda I bought was actually bicarb either, because it had more than one ingredient... but the biscuits were close enough for jazz anyway, and the flavour was right.

On Saturday I jumped on a bus first thing (I was aiming for the metro, but it went past with my destination on the front, so I ran after it) and then caught a train out to Epernay to meet Jonny and a few of his Aussie friends who came over to France in a camper van for Anzac day. We hung out at their campsite for a little while which was on a river and very beautiful, and then headed into town for lunch, which was bakery pizzas and meringue eaten in a park. It was a beautiful day, and I even got a little burnt, which I stupidly thought couldn't happen in France. Still, I'm not as cross at myself as I should be, because it reminds me of home. Epernay is the most important town in the Champagne region, so we spent the afternoon doing wine tasting. First we went to the house of Mercier and did a tour which was very gimicky - a glass lift 30m down into the caves past still lives of the history of the winery, and then a laser-guided train tour through the underground tunnels where they keep the wine. At the end we tried a glass of their champagne, which no one was very impressed with. After that, we found a wine bar with a 5 champagne tasting menu which was really nice, and it was really interesting to compare 5 very different wines. My favourite was a smoky Brut Grand Cru (Pinot Noir & Chardonnay) from Soutiran in Ambonnay. It was so much more interesting a flavour than any champagne I've ever tried, and i'd definitely recommend it, but I suspect it might be hard to find in Australia, and expensive, because it wasn't even particulary cheap in Champagne, and everything here is at least half the price of at home. Still, having now tried the good stuff properly, I think I've come to the conclusion that champagne/sparkling is just not my beverage of choice. We had dinner after that, and I headed off to the train, grabbing a 'smurf' icecream for the road. I braved the Gare de l'Est on my own at night (I've heard it's dodgy, but it seemed ok to me) and made it home safe and sound to find that my housemates had decided to do my washing for me in my absence...lucky my (still) leaky jeans weren't in my washing basket or I'd now have an almost entirely blue wardrobe by now. Hmmm.

Today I'm hitting the grammar books. Can't you tell?

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