Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Friday, July 31, 2009

What have I been doing this week?

A little bit of this:And some of this:And then there's this:This:And this:
Oh yeah, and working too.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Reason 3,451 why I love Minnesota:

It's the Land of 10,000 lakes.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Thanks to those of you who have asked how I'm doing - still sick as a dog, but it's an evolving beast, this illness. What first seemed like the flu turned into a sinus infection and now I have lost my voice. The upside is that I'm feeling a lot better than I felt a few days ago, but the downside is that I've been meeting up with 2 or 3 friends a day, leaving me with just a wisp of a voice.

But it's just a small blip on an otherwise fabulous trip - I've gotten to see so many friends already and I've been able to spend a lot more time with my extended family than I normally do. I've been in Minneapolis this past week and it's been so much fun - I really love the Twin Cities and on so many occasions, I've just had spontaneous bouts of joy run through me. It's just the simple things - meeting up with friends at old hangouts, eating at my favorite restaurants, sitting on campus and chatting (or in my case, listening) under the bright sunshine. Realizing that I can still find my way around here no problem even after six years away. I've been to the Mall of America three times now - though the funny thing is, I haven't actually set a foot in any of the stores there. Of course all of this combined with late nights is probably just prolonging my illness, but what's a girl to do? I've only got this week to see everyone and I can't help but profite of all that comes way.

I had to laugh though when I met with my financial adviser. She was going over my paperwork and asked if I still wanted my mother and Fabrice listed as beneficiaries on my accounts and in my will. I decided to change it - not that Fab would ever go looking for any of that stuff if something ever did happen to me, but I just wanted to make it less of a hassle for my mother. She handed me a pen to sign the paperwork and as she did, I did a double-take - the pen that I was about to use to take Fab's name off my accounts was a pen that he had frickin' made.

A lot of you probably don't know this (I didn't), but Bic is a French company and Fab worked for them for several years in V-town. (It's also where he met the *ahem* lovely Katell). Anyone who ever visited us there knows that we had pens up the wazoo - including about a thousand copies of the Bic velocity pen sitting at that moment on my financial advisor's desk. Each model is produced at a certain site, and I was pretty sure that particular model was only made in France, at the V-town factory, but I flipped it over just to be sure - and there it was - the little "Made in France" logo. I had to laugh at the irony of the whole situation - in many ways, it was like it was all coming full circle.

And then I spent the night with an old friend, drinking Champagne and Côtes du Rhône at a ritzy bar in downtown Minneapolis. So yeah - no complaints from my end.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Am I the only one who doesn't find this very reassuring?

As in, why do they need to have a sign stating this in the first place?


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Opinions, please

Since I've been saving a ton this past year and not really spending much, I decided I was going to splurge on something for myself for my birthday. I'm torn between doing two things:

1) Buying a new iphone 3Gs (I would have to buy it outright since I used up all my phone points last year)
2) Buying an iphone 3G and a netbook.

I keep going back and forth because I've decided to cross over to the dark side and get an iphone and I'd really like to have the radio feature of the new 3Gs (and it would mean I could get rid of my mp3 player). But on the other hand, it'd be really nice to have a netbook that I could just throw in my purse when traveling - my laptop is a dinosaur and weighs just as much, so it's a pain to lug it around all the time.

Does anyone out there have a netbook? I'm just wondering how practical they actually are - I'd basically be using it for internet browsing and email when away from home. I checked out a few today and the keyboards just seemed so small. Plus, the ones I looked at basically only had Internet Explorer loaded and no other software.

Some people have suggested just using the iphone while traveling, but I think it's just a bit too small for it to be my only internet access for a week at a time...


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I hate to say it, but I think the "courant d'air" gods have taken their revenge on me. The other day, I made a snide comment about how I was constantly going back and forth between hot temps and air-conditioned rooms, and haha, those French are so ridiculous, look at me! I've yet to fall deathly ill.

Until yesterday that is.

While driving the 4 hour drive back to my mother's house, my throat started feeling really parched, no matter how much water I drank. I took some cough syrup as a preventative measure and then went to bed. But then one of my client's mistakenly called me at 2am MN time, and as I went to answer the phone, I realized my throat was so hoarse, I couldn't speak. And it's done nothing but get worse all day - I feel like I've been hit by a truck. I'm exhausted & constantly cold, my bones are aching, my nose is all stuffy and my throat feels like I've swallowed knives. I took out some travel insurance at the last minute, so technically I *could* go to the doctor, but for now, I'm just trying to fight it out with Nyquil and my grandma's secret recipe of hot lemonade and honey.

But so I'm just throwing this out there as an apology to the Courant d'air gods. If I promise to never mock you again, will you make this all go away?

Pretty please, with sugar on top?


Monday, July 20, 2009

**Oops, mean to post this Friday but got caught up in all the wedding festivities**

I made it safely to America and then promptly got in a car and drove 5 1/2hrs up North. I arrived at my destination at 5:30am French time. And I then proceeded to go out & party like it was 1999 for the next six hours. Yes, I am crazy. And now also really tired. But I desperately wanted to attend my cousin's bachelorette party - I miss out on so much family stuff by being over in France.

Despite the tiredness though, I'm so glad I went - I had a fabulous time with my cousins and their friends. We've always gotten along well, but the older we get, the more fun we have.

Though what's a bachelorette party with out a little drama?

They neglected to tell me this, but one of the attendees had just been released from rehab and wasn't supposed to be drinking...but she'd been sneaking drinks all night and no one had realized it. By the time I started chatting with her at the third bar, she was already pretty buzzed. But so was everyone else, so I didn't even give it a second glance. People were buying us shots left and right, and I started giving her some of mine - given that it was around 8am French time and I had yet to go to bed, I was trying to pace myself.

The bars closed at 2am, so we moved on to a club to go dancing. I lost track of her for a while, and it turns out it was because she was practically comatose in the corner. When it was time to go, she could barely stand up, so I took her outside to get some fresh air. She sat there hugging a tree and shaking while everyone else regrouped. It was at that point that I learned she had a substance abuse problem. Doh. Her parents ended up coming to get her and her mother yelled at the bride and blamed it all on her. The drunk girl got upset with her mother and refused to get in the car. The two of them started yelling and caused a major scene, at which point the bouncer came out to see what all the fuss was.

Meanwhile, I was missing out on all of this because I was talking to an Irishman (I thought of you Miss Leyla!). What on Earth an Irishman was doing in Grand Forks, ND, I'll never know. We were chatting and he jokingly called another one of my cousin's a bitch - except she misunderstood and thought he'd called me a bitch and started chewing him out. Everyone else joined in and pretty soon the poor Irish boy was surrounded by the bridal party and had no idea what had hit him. At that point, my uncle arrived (my aunt was supposed to be the designated driver, but we had her doing shots all night) and all the girls started jabbering at him at once, and so then he started in on the Irishman too.

I'm not sure if someone called the cops or if a squad car just happened to be driving by, but the policeman took one look at the two scenes we were causing and promptly got out of his vehicle. At which point I decided it was probably best if we got out of there, so I started herding everyone over to the car. I'm pretty sure we got out of there just in time, because things were heating up between the Irishman and the policeman as we drove away.

I thought the whole thing was hilarious, though maybe it was just jetlag-induced hilarity. My whole family is usually so composed, so it was funny to see them all in such a drunken state. I can already tell it's going to become a family legend, and I'm so glad I got to see it firsthand instead of just hearing about it via email!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yesterday's Bastille Day picnic was such a blast - many thanks to the fabulous K&K duo for organizing it. It was a great opportunity to catch up with everyone one last time before we all head our separate ways for the vacation.

I had planned on heading back home to watch the fireworks from my window, but ended up being convinced to stay at the picnic a bit longer (and the cute boy sitting near me didn't hurt *S*). But so the view wasn't quite the same, but the fireworks were indeed spectacular. I took the following video from where we were sitting, and the Eiffel Tower is indeed in the picture, but by the end it was mostly hidden by the smoke from the fireworks:

Good thing it was a good show though, because the jury is still out on whether my date to last year's picnic, who also showed up this year, is more into a certain male friend (*ahem*) than he is to me. LOL

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Can I just say that the Bal de Pompiers was a million times better than I expected? The only thing was that I wished I would've been there with some girlfriends instead of my date - there were majorly hot firemen everywhere and I felt like DANCING. We went to the Ball at the Porte de Champerret Fire Station. The place was absolutely huge, with two different stage areas and a champagne room. Another guy there was telling me that they were the biggest brigade in Paris and judging by the number of firemen there, I can definitely believe it. Out of respect for my date, I didn't really take any pictures of the firemen, but to give you an idea of what it's like at the end of the night, here are few from the Internets:As for the date itself - it was actually alright. He was a nice guy, we have a lot in common (he travels for work, has studied in Finland, etc) and I think he may be one of the first guys to get a second date. So for now, I am over-looking the fact that he is from Bretagne... ;)


For the francophiles out there

To celebrate the Eiffel Tower's 120th birthday, the City Hall of Paris has created a website where you can watch tonight's fireworks display live, online, starting at 22h45 French time.

Check it out here!


Monday, July 13, 2009

Tonight fire stations all across Paris and France will be holding their annual Bal des Pompiers, or Firemens' Ball. One of the most famous ones, held at the Port Royal Fire station, is located in my neighborhood, but after a failed attempt to attend that one last year, I will be testing out the waters in another arrondissement this year....with Hot Date #1. Though he may have some competition from all the hot, shirtless firemen running around... ;)

If you click here, you'll see the list of all the bals being held in IdF. (FYI: Some stations have balls both the 13 & the 14th, giving you two chances to see the firemen in action!)

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lord help me, but as time goes on, I'm slowly turning into my mother. I see it in the little ways - from my obsessive picture taking of the same thing (me: the eiffel tower, her: fall foliage). I can still hear myself as a child saying "But mom - the leaves change color every year. You have albums and albums of the exact same pictures!"

Or in the way that I have friends and acquaintances all over France, Europe & the US. And in the way that I make an effort to cultivate and keep those friendships. It used to drive me crazy as a child that no matter where we went, she always ran into someone she knew - which for me, meant standing there and having to be patient while she chatted. But now I find myself doing the same - making connections, bringing people together.

Funnily enough, my mother always told me my name meant "patience", something I was often in short supply of until moving to France. Though google disagrees and says it means "listener" in Aramaic.

I suppose it's inevitable that we all end up in some way like our mothers (or fathers) - it's just not something I ever pictured myself doing. My mother felt like she'd had a very unfair childhood growing up as the oldest child of an immigrant family, and in many ways, I paid for that. She was often selfish and she was a workaholic. She was very hard on me - pushing me to constantly do more and do better. I never got pocket money or an allowance from her, I was always told that if I wanted money, I had to earn it myself. So I started working from a very early age - at 12 - in order to have some financial freedom. To be able to buy clothes and cassette tapes like my friends. The same party line continued on when I went to college and I worked 30-40 hours per week to pay my way through school. Not that I'm complaining here - I absolutely loved the jobs I had in college and wouldn't have traded them for the world. And it made me self-sufficient. Independent. Able to take care of myself. I couldn't really say the same for my college roommate, who, as lovely as she was, seemed to think that money only came from the ATM.

But all of this meant that I resented my mother for a good portion of my youth - she was so tough on me and so easy on my brother. My father was my refuge, the one who always comforted and encouraged me - which was why it was even doubly harder for me when he passed away. It was often an "us against them" mentality, and I had lost my "us".

I don't know what's made me think about all this lately - maybe watching MJ's poor children having to deal with the death of their father in the public eye. Maybe my impending trip to the US, in which I know I'll be spending time a lot of time with her. And the thing is, since my father died, she's changed. Softened with time. Regrets that we don't have that typical mother/daughter relationship. It's so strange now for me to see her almost try to buy my love, and it's almost laughable to hear her offer to buy me a plane ticket home after so many years of extreme tight-fistedness.

Part of time thinks it's too late to change - almost 30 years of interactions can be a hard habit to break. But part of me thinks we have to - she's my only remaining parent. Many people out there no longer have that, including some of you reading this. And because of you, I think of what will happen when she's gone. I'm so far away and I don't want to have any regrets.

So this time around, I'm vowng to try to be more open. More patient. To talk more about my life. To appreciate what I can learn from her. And to accept her as she is.

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

There's not much going on around here these days - after a fun-filled weekend full of 4th of July celebrations and birthday picnics, I'm just laying low this week and giving my eyes time to rest (and my poor liver a break).

It's a bit boring, but I'm trying to appreciate the down-time before all the excitement coming up: fun weekend plans, hot dates, Bastille Day festivities and then there's always the joy of trying to figure out what to pack for a near-month long trip to the US while hungover.

Good times.

I am looking forward to my trip to the US though, and have been dreaming for some time about what all I'm going to eat. Being single has its downsides and one of them is not feeling inspired to cook for one. I've been feeling extremely bored with what I've been eating lately but yet it just seems like too much work to go about making elaborate dinners for just myself. And eating out here can be so expensive... So instead I dump some more pasta into the boiling water and then dream about the wonderful meals I will be eating in just a few short days. Which leaves me wondering how I always manage to lose weight in the US...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

As far as the after-care goes, I've got these über-sexy "coques" to wear while I sleep:
Anyone else notice their eerie resemblance to a nut cup?Ha!

Besides having to tape those to my face every night for a week, I've got eye drops to put in regularly for the first ten days, I can't swim for a month and no contact sports for the first month either. I can however go to the gym and do my normal work-out.

And this is really vain, but I'm going to be honest here and say the hardest thing for me is going to be the "no make-up for ten days" rule - not that I wear a ton of make-up or anything, but I have really light eyes and light eyelashes so I tend to look extremely young without mascara and eye shadow. We're talking barely legal, especially if I have my hair pulled back. Luckily I'm supposed to wear sunglasses almost constantly as well, so I can just hide behind those... :)


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independance Day (to my eyes)

So, I've got big news for those of you not on Facebook - Thursday afternoon at 5:30pm, I finally got LASIK eye surgery!

Contrary to last year, going up to the surgery I wasn't feeling nervous at all. I felt very calm and zen about the whole thing and didn't have any trouble falling asleep the night before. Once at the clinic, they did some last minute eye exams and then walked me through the procedure. After the exams, I sat in a darkened room for about 20 minutes while they prepared the machines, and then it was time to go. I still felt calm going in - and only had one minor moment of panic when the laser was actually coming down to cut the corneal flap. Just a brief "WTF are you doing?? A laser is about to cut your eye in a foreign country, are you insane?!?" And then it passed and it was all over before I knew it. They say it only takes 15 minutes from start to finish.

After that, I sat in the darkened room again and they gave me juice and cookies. The following patient was brought in and I chatted with him a bit. He asked if I was in pain, and I said no - and then I asked if he was nervous, and he said "Not really, I sort of feel like I felt before passing the Bac". Once he was brought into the operating room, I was able to go out and sit in the waiting room with Crystal, who was kind enough to accompany me to the clinic. Once his surgery was done, the surgeon came back to take a quick look at my eyes and then off we went. It's a good thing I was able to see fairly well (it was like opening my eyes underneath the water), because Crystal started leading me the wrong way home. ;)

There were about two hours afterward where it was sort of uncomfortable, but by the time I went to bed it had passed and I was already starting to see clearer. I woke up this morning and automatically reached for my glasses when all of the sudden I realized that I didn't need them! It was truly a bizarre feeling to be able to see straightaway after a lifetime of having to wear glasses or contacts. I immediately got up and looked out the window at the Eiffel tower, just to see exactly how far I could see.

As the morning went on, my vision kept getting better and better and now, a day and a half after the surgery, I'd say my vision is at about 95%. I still have trouble reading really fine print, especially with my left eye, but when I went for my follow-up visit yesterday, the doctor said things looked good and that my vision should continue to improve as my eyes heal.

As for the clinic itself, I chose it for several reasons - it was within walking distance of chez moi, I immediately got a good vibe from the surgeon and his staff, and the clinic looked extremely clean and professional (à l'américaine). I also really liked how willing they were to answer my questions - which isn't often the case with French doctors. I'm someone who likes to know what is going on and why, and they were very patient and willing to walk me through exactly what they were doing. If anyone is interested in getting their info, just let me know - the clinic is located in the 6th, near metro Vavin.

And here's a video they did to explain how the procedure works - it shows pretty much exactly what it was like for me. For the non-French speakers, the text is in French, but you should still be able to follow it:


Friday, July 3, 2009

Part II of "How to open a bottle of wine with no cork screw"

At at picnic the other night along the Seine, we found ourselves with several bottles of wine but no cork screw. A bunch of the guys started talking about a video they had seen on Youtube, showing how you can use a shoe and a wall to open the bottle. I sort of thought it was like that video showing the cell phones causing popcorn kernels to pop and was like "Yeah, Yeah" and went off to borrow one from some fellow picnickers.

Later on in the night though as we were walking home, we came along a group of guys who had just opened a bottle using that very same method. So it really does work - sorry Gui & Go for doubting you! Here's a quick videoing showing how it works:

Just look at the kind of useful things you can learn from my blog...


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Thursday, July 2, 2009

No, no, we won't go

On the way back from the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Abbey Bookshop last night, I came across this:For the non-French speakers, the sign roughly says "This building has sat empty since 2004, and has been taken over by 10 students (blah blah can't read it) in precarious situations. Le CROUS is asking us for 3000€ per month and per occupant, and has obtained an order for our expulsion."

It immediately reminded me of a few different shows I've seen on TV here, covering the housing crisis and the insanely high number of empty buildings in Paris. A lot of companies (both French & foreign) apparently buy up these big apartment buildings left and right as a way to sort of hide their money - and then they just leave them empty. The French government also owns a good chunk of them.

Meanwhile, there is a major housing crisis in Paris and tons of students and/or people with low-incomes who can't find a place to live. Some students have thus started requisitioning these buildings - basically taking them over and using them as their own. In one report I saw, each of the students had a floor of their own - roughly 100m2 - filled with crown molding and marble fireplaces. Of course the building was completely empty, so most of them only had a mattress, some clothes and maybe some books in their entire apartment. And they had to live with the fear that they could be kicked out at any moment, or could come home and find the doors locked with all of their things inside.

Having spent quite a bit of time looking for an apartment in Paris, I know how frustrating (and soul-sucking) it can be, especially for those who don't have someone who can sign as a guarantor for them. And I do think it's absolutely crazy that all of these buildings sit empty - but they tend to be in the chicest neighborhoods of Paris and of course the residents there don't want to live with rowdy students or low-income people.

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Considering it was my birthday this past weekend and I'm just that much closer to having to admit that I'm an adult, I figured I'd better post some age-appropriate photos of les Sables d'Olonne as well:I've been wanting to go for a few years now and I have clients in the area, but I always thought it was much farther than it really was. Now that I know it's only 45 minutes away though, I will definitely be returning!