Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

I'm back from Germany, but am now en déplacement in the Loire Valley again for work. Some months it just never ends. After a 3:30am wake-up call Monday and a 5:30am wake-up call today and tomorrow, it goes without saying that I'm definitely looking forward to the weekend. Things are going very well work-wise though, so at least there's that.

I spent the day today with a bunch of 50 year old men and of course got the usual jokes about women working in a technical field (Watch out, she's wielding a screw driver), plus the typical "Americans only eat at McDonald's" cracks. I actually pulled out a tidbit I learned last week, ie that the French are the world's biggest spenders at McDonald's ($15 per visit vs $4 in the US), and that they are the second biggest consumers of it after the Americans....and they have about 1/5 the population of the US. I had to laugh as it left all five of them speechless for a second - which doesn't happen often in this country. 4 out of the 5 then admitted that they really liked Macdo, but the other - and this is my favorite bit - said that he didn't because they didn't have any forks or knives and he thought it was so extremely uncivilized to be eating with ones' hands. LOVE IT - it doesn't get much more French than that.

After work, I went to check into my hotel. With all my travels of late, I'd forgotten to book a room until the very last minute, which meant that the two I normally stay at were both fully booked. So I had to go with another one in the next town over. I was telling my 'someone special' how I always get the crankiest receptionists at these places and he said "Well, it's a new hotel, so maybe it will be someone nicer". I didn't have high hopes, but then again, I'm so used to it by now that it doesn't really matter to me either way.

I had a bit of time to kill before dinner, so after checking in, I went to do a bit of shopping. On my way back, I realized that I'd be leaving before they opened, so that I better pay tonight. And also remember to ask for a breakfast tray to be brought up before they left. Which I did, and that's when I witnessed the crise de l'année. You would've thought that I'd asked her to go out to the nearby field, harvest the wheat, turn it into flour and then make me some home-made bread all by 5am.

Oh la la - why didn't you tell me you would be leaving so early when you reserved the room?
Um...because I just found out today.
But how can you expect us to deal with such imprévus? Do you think breakfast grows on trees?
*Confused as to why this is such a big deal*
Tsk tsk. This is really a situation. I don't know how we're going to deal with it. (And on and on and on)

Have gone through this (or very similar) routines a million times before, I now know the best thing to do is to just patiently wait it out. Let them get it all off their chest, and sometimes throw in a word of agreement here or there, to let them know that you get just what a burden you are being on them.

Five long minutes later, it was finally decided that I could pay right then (before I ate dinner - *gasp* - which was btw included as part of my stay so was not any extra). And that she would see what she could put together for me for a breakfast tray. But that shh, I shouldn't tell anyone that she was doing this for me as it really was an exceptionnel occasion.

Honestly. I'm laughing again right now just thinking about it. Some day I will have enough crazy hotel stories to write a book on that subject alone!

Labels: ,

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Getting my hands dirty

As those of you who are friends with me on FB are aware, I've been in Germany since Thursday for work. Everything is so orderly here, it's crazy how different two neighboring countries can be. Plus the very minute I stepped off the plane, I saw a group full of cute men wearing lederhosen. What's not to love?

The down side to this trip is that it is Thursday through late Monday evening, essentially eating up my whole weekend. The thing is though, I actually volunteered for this trip of my own free will in order to help out a co-worker and get some additional training in an area that I know very little about (hence the hands getting extremely dirty part- thank God for protective gloves). And it's true that I was very excited for this trip at first, especially since I've never been to Germany before, but I have to admit that leaving Paris has been less and less enjoyable as of late due to a certain special someone. While I *am* enjoying myself here (my co-worker is great, I'm learning a lot, trying lots of new foods, the people are very friendly and the stores are filled with tasty American goodies), the nights spent alone in my hotel room just seem to drag on and on. Facebook, twitter and blogs no longer seem to hold my attention.

Not to mention that being here has meant some really long days and very early wake-up calls (including a 3:30am alarm set for Monday - eesh), so I should have been sleeping a few hours ago already. But instead I am listening to the village people (ha!) walk through town banging a drum and singing a haute voix, all the while wearing checkered kerchiefs and dragging a gigantic loaf of bread on a decorative sled behind them. Something about celebrating the birth of a child at either six months or one year of age?? It's so kooky that I can almost forgive these crazy Germans for all the noise. *almost*

And now it's back to trying to fall asleep. Bonne nuit tout le monde.

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile


Friday, October 23, 2009

The last place I visited last week was the Château de Villandry. The château itself is a bit bof, but it's the gardens people come to see (think Versailles on a smaller scale).I also really enjoyed the fall decorations they had - it's not too often that you see pumpkins lying around. Though Karina said the exact same decorations where there when she visited several years ago, so I guess they don't win points for originality...
The inside was also a bit strange - there were lots of different styled rooms. I personally was not a fan of the salmon pink walls in the main dining room:
But the gardens were still worth the visit - even if I had to laugh at the use of cabbage as a decorative plant. It's a really common thing to see here in France.
And lastly, I have to give a shout-out to Amy from Chitlins and Camembert, for not being freaked out by the idea of meeting a random person from the internet. We met up for lunch last Thursday in a restaurant across from another château, and I had a really lovely time. She recently started blogging again, so go check out her site!


Thursday, October 22, 2009

In celebration of Citroen's 90th anniversary, the Eiffel tower will be sparkling with a 12 minute light show every night at 9pm for the next 3 months. I'm bummed that I won't be around to see the first show tonight, but I caught a preview of it late last night and it looked pretty cool.

They will also have 10 citroen C3 cars equipped with cameras at various points on the Champs de Mars, so those of you not in Paris can see watch it live here.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Doritos, where have you been all my life?

(A reference for the Diary of Why readers ^^)


Monday, October 19, 2009

Château de Brézé

One of the coolest things about my trip last week was stopping by a château I've wanted to visit since first hearing about it in 2004. This particular château caught my attention because of the kilometers and kilometers of tunnels running underneath it. The earliest written reference to the underground portion of the castle dates back to 1063, where it was used as a defensive stronghold by the lords of Brézé. The tunnels are all at least 9m underground, and like the troglodyte farms, were set up to support all lifeforms for long periods of time. There were living quarters, stables, a well and my favorite - even a bread oven:It's interesting to note that the exterior portions of the castle only date back to the 16th century, and that the towers and other decorative features weren't added until the early 19th century.
Once back above ground, I entered the château to visit the wing that was open to the public (the count and his wife still live in the other wing). I have to say thought that the best thing about the visit was that I was literally the only person there besides the woman selling the tickets. I had all the tunnels and the entire château to myself, which allowed me to do some "investigative" exploring. For example, I saw this and thought "hmm...what could be up those stairs?". I looked to the right, and then to the left, and decided to go for it.
At the top of the stairs was a closed door. I tried the handle and lo and behold, it opened to this:It was strange little room with several mattresses on the floor and some curious little knickknacks - old oil lamps, a pair of baby shoes and some glassware (click on the picture to enlarge it). But why?? Why would that stuff be there??Once I was done exploring, it was off to visit the château's vineyards. I had a lovely chat with the (cute) sommelier and then did a free tasting of what they had to offer. I bought a bottle of their crémant and then had a quick look around the grounds before moving on to the next site. I really couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. Since I'd been looking forward to visiting for so long, I was worried it would end up being a let down, but it ended up exceeding my expectations!


Friday, October 16, 2009

This week I was lucky enough to have to "forced" days off work. Well, not really off work since I still had to respond to emails & phone calls, but two days where I couldn't actually visit any clients. So I did what any girl with a free rental car & a love for discovering new things did - I went exploring.

First up on my list was visiting some of the Troglodyte cave dwellings. It's been something I wanted to do every since seeing it over on Amy's blog almost two years ago. It's quite ironic though to see the comment I left there, saying how I was going to try to get Fab to take me in Spring when we broke up. Either way, I'm glad I finally made it.

I saw a sign for a site with 2 Troglodyte farms located about 5kms from where I was staying, so after breakfast one day, I headed off to check it out. I had the whole place myself, and thus spent a few hours making checking things out and making my way through all the different rooms.

Here's what it looks like today:And in around 1900, just before the farms were abandoned:The caves really were like mini-towns underground. There was a room for everything - sleeping quarters, kitchens with bread ovens, stables for the animals, and even wine-pressing rooms.I also found it really neat that all the rest of the houses in the village also had their own troglodyte caves underneath. You could see that some people where using them for storage:And others had turned them into apartments or gîtes:If I'm ever in the area again, I'll definitely be checking one of them out - anything has to be better than the hotel where I stayed!

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Foggy morning, foggy brain

Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Last night some friends and I made our way up to Montmartre for the 76th annual Fête des Vendanges, or Grape Harvest Festival. For those of you that don't know, there is a small vineyard there, called "La Vigne du Clos de Montmartre" dating back to 1934, but they say wine has been produced there for centuries now.

The fête itself lasts for four days and includes all kinds of fun events - tastings, visits of the vineyard, and local and regional markets among other things. There are also exhibitions, concerts, galas and my favorite - fireworks!

We had a great time walking around, trying different wines and chatting with people - like these über-friendly gentlemen.And then we picked up some bread, saucisson, cheese and a few bottles of wine and had an impromptu picnic while waiting for the fireworks to start. It had been a great day and for whatever reason, I just felt so in the moment. There I was, sitting on a grassy hill overlooking Paris, surrounded by Frenchies and I was enjoying myself. Enjoying myself! How things have changed from my Bretagne days.
Sometimes it's the littlest things that make life so great. And y'all know how much I love me some fireworks. Especially last night - the sky was just full of all of these brilliant colors.

At one point it almost felt like an acid trip, like these golden stars were just raining down upon us.And then it was off for some pizza and traipsing around Montmartre. I honestly could not have asked for a better Saturday night.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sunday, Leesa, Noëlle and I (plus others) participated in the 5K Odyssea Breast Cancer Walk/Run out at the Château de Vincennes. Even though it was tough getting up early after la nuit blanche, I had a great time and it was for a good cause.
According to their website, there were 14,000 participants this year - up a huge jump from the 8,000 last year, and a total of 175,000 euros was raised. The money will go to the Gustave Roussay Research Institute.It took us just a little over an hour to finish and then we all enjoyed a nice lunch of omlettes and salads at a nearby restaurant.And then I went home and took a nap.

But things have been going relatively well for me as late (knock on wood), and I've been feeling the need to give back, to share my good fortune. If anyone else knows of any similar events or other places to volunteer, please let me know.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

This past Saturday night was the 8th Edition of "La Nuit Blanche" here in Paris. It's an annual, all-night arts festival takes place in other cities in Europe as well. This year in Paris, the festival was situated in three neighborhoods - Le Marais, Le Quartier Latin et Les Buttes Chaumont. I was feeling kind of lazy, so we decided to just stay in the Latin Quarter. We first walked up to St Michel, through absolute throngs of people. The Cluny Museum had their Roman baths open, so we walked through there and briefly stopped to watch a very boring film showing a snow storm. The Roman Baths themselves were much more interesting, especially since they'd been closed for renovation when I'd stopped by last summer.

And then it was on to the Luxembourg gardens, to see the ginormous disco ball I'd been hearing so much about. The line was atrocious - it went from the entrance to the Senate building all the way along the gates up to the main entrance at the RER exit. We decided to get in line anyways, with the hopes that it was fast-moving.We were wrong. 2 1/2 hours later, at almost exactly midnight, we finally made it to the entrance. But the disco ball was indeed gigantic.There was also this installation, as well as a weird musical one. So yeah, I know what you're thinking - that is so NOT worth a 2 1/2hr wait. I definitely agree.But at least I was bien accompagnée. ;)

Labels: ,

Monday, October 5, 2009

I was chatting with someone yesterday and he asked me about my parents, if they were upset about me being so far away. I remember hesitating - often times I just give the standard answer of "Of course they'd prefer if I lived in the US" instead of saying "There's just my mom now, my dad passed away several years ago". I decided to be honest and went for the second option. As I was telling him this, I could see his face sadden for me. But the feeling inside me didn't match his sadness. My heart felt pinched but not torn out and stomped on.

And all of the sudden I was reminded of how I'd felt all those years ago** in Finland, having to tell people in Finnish that my dad had died. It very rarely made me cry. Nor does it when I say it in French. But if I had to say it in English, I was a completely wreck. And even today I sometimes find myself tearing up when talking about it, or writing about it as I am now.

Which has made me think about the weight words can carry. "My dad died" is just so full of meaning for an anglophone. But say it in French or Finnish and I feel somewhat removed - neither of the words have the years of history or meaning behind them. They're just two more words.

So I'm curious to hear if anyone else has noticed this too. I guess for me, it's mostly a good thing - it allows me to think and talk about my dad without feeling that crushing sadness that fills me when I speak about him in English. It's fascinating how the brain can compartmentalize things like that.

**I just realized it will soon be 10 years. 10 frickin' years. How is that possible?