Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Nice Was [Insert Any Positive Adjective Here]

Now to explain why the South of France was worth all this trouble.

First of all, it's beautiful. Not the "yeah she's pretty good looking" type of beautiful, but the "I want to make babies with you" beautiful. If you can't tell from the pictures, let me inform you that I was constantly wide-eyed at just how gorgeous the landscape was. You have the blue-green Mediterranean in the foreground, the foothills of the Alps in the background, with French style houses painted in Italian style colors pouring down from the valleys to meet the sea. The best view of all this was when we took a bus from Nice to Monaco. The path it followed was one around the foothills, high above the little villages with stunning views around every corner. The bus trip in itself was a sight to see. The best moment I spent enjoying the scenery was in Villefranche-sur-Mer, a tiny coast village between Nice and Monaco. I just sat in a cafe on the beach and spent about an hour sipping a coffee and watching the lazy sailboats float in the bay while the sun slowly set behind the mountains. Every blink of an eye was seriously a new post card waiting to be printed. My favorite part of the trip was doing just this, sitting in the sun by the water and relaxing. It's extremely obvious why the Azur Coast has been a resort spot for centuries.

Even when the weather turns bad there are plenty of things to do in Nice. It rained once while we where in Nice, but there are at least two theaters that play movies in English. We saw Green Zone. There's also a couple museums worth visiting; the Chagall Museum was really interesting. (I did haggle for a free ticket, making it all the more worthwhile.) There's also plenty of shopping that I found just as accessible as, but much more laid back than, Paris. However the best indoor activity in my opinion were food and alcohol establishments. Because of all the rich Brits who like to harbor their yachts in these southern French towns, finding an English bar is like finding a vegan in SW Portland, they practically scream at you. The second night in Nice while wandering through Old Nice in the rain, we stumbled upon the Snug Pub, a cozy little Irish bar that was playing some live soccer. So we decided to stop there and have a beer. They had Kilkenny on tap, one of my favorite smooth beers. As we watched the game one beer turned into three (four for Alistair) and 6pm quickly became almost 10pm so we decided to tipsily make our way home for dinner. We didn't eat out that often, but even just going and getting a drink (or three) is not a bad way to spend vacation.

The weather was almost always sunny and warm enough, even in the sea breeze, for a T shirt. We spent a lot of time outside, enough for me to be at least partially sunburned all week. Whether it was on the beach at Nice, walking through the principality of Monaco, or hiking the cape of Antibes. Monaco was alright, but with all its condos and heavy development I don't really feel the need to go back. The Casino at Monte Carlo wouldn't even let me in because I was wearing shorts! But I wasn't that upset as you had to pay 10 euros to get in even if you were dressed properly. Antibes was ok too, but not big enough to have all the things to do that Nice has to offer and not small enough to be as relaxing as Villefrance-sur-Mer. The best part of Antibes was a little hike Jack, Alistair, and I did to get to the top of the cape where the lighthouse sat. It had pretty awesome views from the top and a little cafe we sat at recovering for a while (not because the hike was difficult mind you, we were simply out of shape). Up there was awesome. Plus I should mention that all public transportation on the Azur Coast is only 1 euro. So you can take a bus from Cannes all the way to Monaco for 1 euro (that's about an hour and 20 minute ride). So the 2 euro round trips from Nice to these other surrounding towns is definitely worth it. There is plenty to explore and I still want to go back to see all that I missed, but seeing things in the South of France is set a little slower pace because the value placed on unwinding is much higher than that of sight seeing.

I know this post about the pluses isn't as long as the previous post about the minuses but you'll just have to take my word on this one, so worth it and I cannot wait to return.

One week from today until I come home!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Strikes = Pointless

Last week I spent the most needed vacation along the Cote d'Azur in Southern France. It was a week of visiting coastal resort towns like Nice and Antibes as well as setting foot in (technically) another country entirely, Monaco. I didn't see too many sights deemed touristy but I consider not a second wasted just laying next to the Mediterranean in the warm sun. So yes, this vacation has been a major highlight of my stay in France but it almost didn't happen. You see, to reach my destination I had to overcome a pugnacious obstacle: French socialism.

Easter vacation (the two weeks off during the month of April) started off extremely boring, mostly hanging out in my room in Toucy with no human contact aside from Skype. The only thing that made this bearable was knowing that in less than a week I would be relaxing on the beaches of Nice. So you can imagine how devastated I was when, Thursday night, I get an email saying that my train from Paris to Nice on Friday night is canceled. I thought it was a late April fools joke. What really happened is that the SNCF (France's rail company) was supposed to strike on Wednesday but because of characteristics all too French, it was postponed until Friday (lucky me). "Don't fret," the email told me, "You can exchange your ticket free of charge... as long as it's for a date after April 28th." Oh yeah, after I leave, great idea! Not. So after a couple hours trying to figure out what to do I paid the extra costs to exchange my ticket for the following day. A little disappointed that I had to pay more and miss an entire day of vacation in Nice, I still went to bed assured of imminent travel. Imagine, then, not the devastation but the fury I felt when Friday night I receive an email saying the strike is now ongoing for an "indeterminable" length. I was at a complete loss. I talked to Marie and she said I should just go and try to get on any train because they're probably not even checking tickets. I decided to accompany Marie the following morning to Joigny to take a train to Paris and try my luck with the trains. I just figured I wouldn't take "no" for an answer, and if worse comes to worse I can always play the ignorant tourist. "What do you mean we have to have a ticket? I wasn't told that and NO I DON'T speak French!"

Since Marie wanted to get to Paris rather early, we arrived before 9 am. I waited until the English bookstore was open so I could buy something to read while traveling. I got a great deal on "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by Dee Brown since I found a used copy and because there was significant wear on the cover I got it for half price, so 3 euros! It was also beautiful weather so I sat in a park opposite Notre Dame and read in the sun until around 2 pm, when I was to meet my English friends Alistair and Jack at the station to take the train to Nice. They had booked a train and received no emails of cancellation, so I was planning on joyriding their train. When I met up with them, to all of our surprise, their train was canceled as well but they never got a heads up. The only train leaving from Paris to Nice that day was at 5:47 pm, so us three, as well as hundreds of other stranded passengers, waited anxiously in the train station staring at the board in anticipation of the dash to find a seat once the platform number was announced. It was mostly a blur but what I do remember was seeing the platform show up, yelling, "G! G! It's G!" and Alistair, Jack, and I running full steam through throngs of like-minded masses in the frantic search for a seat. I was golden, until out of nowhere I was stuck behind a man helping a handicapped woman out of her chair and onto the train. Alistair and Jack looked back only briefly while I gave them a pained look that said, "Go on with out me guys, I'll never make it!" So they rushed on ahead and luckily found 3 seats together. I got settled in as well and just in time too because it seemed right after I sat down the train was ridiculously packed. People were sitting on the stairs, on luggage, or just standing in the hallways. The people who didn't get a seat insisted that their seat reservations for previous trains were still valid and argued for others to move. This was of course ludicrous because multiple people had tickets with the same exact reserved seat. They were just sour they missed the free-for-all memo.

Our train car calmed down rather quickly however and no sooner than I figured we'd be soon on our way the conductor's voice comes over the intercom saying, "I will not have this behavior on my train. People in car three are fighting over seats and I will not leave the station until those passengers disembark from the train." Of course he said it in a "If you don't behave I'm turning this train around!" voice. Our imaginations began to run wild about the conditions of car 3. We imagined vines covering the windows and a general steamy, jungle-like atmosphere with tribes set up Lord of the Flies style. Finally it was announced that another train was leaving the station and was supposed to hit up several of the same stops, but not Nice, so the others not going all the way to Nice left our train and headed to the other. Our Napoleonic-complex driver let us leave the station, only 30 minutes late. There were no other mishaps on the way down and 6 hours later we arrived in Nice.

Flash forward one week later:

Much to our and the general public's surprise, the SNCF had continued it's strike for over a week! Needless to say, our train back from Nice to Paris on Saturday night was canceled. Since the ride down was easy enough to get I wasn't too worried about the ride back. But we all got to the station early, just to be safe. They were handing out free pain au chocolat and orange juice, which as poor of an apology it may be, was still delicious. When the platform was announced we hurried out to the train and I made a snap decision. I said, "Guys, we're going 1st class." I carried my bags up to the top first class car and the guys followed. We easily found four seats and settled in. Let me tell you, first class is like "whoa." The large, more comfy seats recline at the push of a button, there is much more space than economy, and the food carts come to you! The food service comes through first class with a cart, like an airplane, and offers first class passengers service before the economy. On the ride down they ran out of sandwiches but here I got first pick. (Also, soon after serving first class it was announced over the intercom that they ran out of sandwiches. Score.) No one checked tickets either so there wasn't a problem. To top it all, SNCF reimbursed our tickets because since our train was canceled it was assumed we didn't take the train, therefore we had a free ride from Nice to Paris! Everything ended up working out for the best despite the selfish rail workers' attempt to ruin everyone else's Easter vacation. Idiots.

Another post is soon to follow about how great the actual vacation was, proving it was worth all this trouble... because it seriously was.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Cote d'Azur Photos

I added pictures I took in and around Nice to my web albums and hopefully soon I'll get some time to write about it because it was amazing!

Time is going by so fast, only 8 days before I head home... as long as Iceland figures out their volcanoes, anyway.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

In light of the holiday that is this Sunday I thought it appropriate to expound upon the continuous struggle of my daily life in France, namely, cultural differences. While the large differences are also the most noticeable, it is often the minute details that go against the grain. Easter is no exception. While the general gist is the same (Jesus died and was resurrected which inevitably led to chocolate eggs) it's the mode of delivery where France and the US, well most of the rest of the Western world actually, differ.

There's an excerpt I want to share with you from a book I recently bought in an English bookstore in Paris that exemplifies this precise difference. This is an autobiographical book called "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris, and is about his move to France and the difficulties found therein through language and culture. To give some context, in this excerpt Sedaris is in month two of his first French language class that he is taking in Paris. His classmates are a UN of nationalities and the teacher a straight up bitch. Just keep in mind that the conversations are translated from the broken French that is their only means of communication. Enjoy:

[We finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbook by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.

"And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?"

The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"

Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."

The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, shit."

She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

"He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber."

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the pope an aneurysm.

"He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father."

"He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."

"He nice, the Jesus."

"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."

Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as "To give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One, too, may eat of the chocolate."

"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.

I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, "The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."

My classmates reacted as though I'd attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.

"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"

"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods."

The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome."

I called for a time-out. "But how do the bell know where you live?"

"Well," she said, "how does a rabbit?"

It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That's a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth--and they can't even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he's someone you'd like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It's like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they've got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That's the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there's no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell's dog -and even then he'd need papers. It just didn't add up.

Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate. Confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.

In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a sixyear-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles -my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.

A bell, though, that's fucked up.]

Happy Easter everyone!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nathan's Visit, Part Deux

And we're back.

So Thursday seemed promising at first since I had only one class before Nathan and I headed to Normandy for the weekend before he left. It all turned sour however when I went to tell Kathi what time we needed to leave. I confirmed with Kathi a couple days before that should could give us a ride, so I was shocked/angry/frustrated when she said she was too sick to take us. We had an hour before we needed to leave and she could have told me this at any point earlier in the day. Also, it should be noted that by "sick" she really meant "hungover" as she drank an entire bottle of pink wine the night before. So I had really no time to find us another ride to be able to make our train. I went to the teachers room and asked around but none of my teachers were available. Defeated and furious I returned to my room where Nathan was waiting with packed bags to tell him we wouldn't be able to make the trip. But just as I got in the room Marie calls my cell phone. She asked around for me and found another teacher (whom I've never met) to give us a ride. It was a godsend. I went from furious to elated with a tinge of remaining disappointment in Kathi. But we got from Joigny to Caen with ease and barely any wait time to boot. There can be something very relaxing about train travel that I wish we had in the US.

We got to Caen after dark, which I hate getting to new places after dark, but our hotel was right across from the train station and not too difficult to find. It was another Etap hotel chosen out of cheapness. It was slightly better than the Etap hotel I stayed in the Friday before Nathan's arrival, but still smelled pretty bad. Once we checked in and brought our bags upstairs we headed into town to find some dinner. We actually lucked out because we found an awesome crepe restaurant (crepes come from Normandy, as well as many other delicious things like hard cider, Camembert, and calvados) and Nathan had been wanting crepes ever since he got to France. So we had a full meal, with a savory crepe which is a buckwheat flour crepe with ham, cheese, and an egg (very aptly named "The Complete"), a sweet crepe of white flour with butter and sugar, and a half pitcher of Norman cider to go along with them. Probably the best meal we had in Normandy.

The next morning we went to a bakery and super market to stock up on some food since we were heading out to the American Cemetery for the better part of the day. We took the train from Caen to Bayeux and then a bus from Bayeux to the cemetery. The weather was beautiful. I'd been to the cemetery before, this was my fourth time in fact, but it is still impressive and moving. The little museum at the site is very, very well done. And of course just wandering the grounds is an experience in itself. All was going well until we walked down onto the beach and I stepped in what looked to be just wet sand but turned out to be quicksand. I got out quickly but at the expense of the lower half of my pants being covered in wet sand and my shoes looking like brown clogs. Nathan was crying he was laughing so hard. I went and stood in the ocean enough to clean off my shoes and most of my pants but I was still rather dirty. One American girl walking buy just summed it up: "That suuucks." After cleaning them my shoes weren't brown and sandy anymore but my feet stayed wet the rest of the day.

Then we walked from the beach up by the bunker remains below the cemetery. With how beautiful it is at these beaches and with the cement and metal retaken by grasses it is very difficult to actually imagine what happened there on Omaha Beach. It always astounds me that the American Cemetery, like no other place on Earth, makes me feel proudest to be an American.

After standing in the rain for about 45 minutes, Nathan and I got on the bus back to Bayeux. Half way back we were given quite a shock when the 50 something year old male bus driver cranked the radio to Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." I'm not sure if it was just a patch of great reception or this man rocks out to pop during his off time, but either way it was great.

I showed Nathan a little of Bayeux when the bus dropped us off and we had kebabs for dinner. Bayeux is one of my favorite towns in Normandy and I know when my mom visited it was hers as well. It's just quaint enough but still has things to do and accessible to other towns and sites because of the buses and trains. We spent our second and last night in Caen, with one day left to explore Arromanches before heading back to Paris Saturday night. The problem was that we had to check out of the hotel before we visited Arromanches (to get there we also had to take the train to Bayeux and take a bus). I went downstairs in the morning to ask the receptionist if we could just leave our bags here until the afternoon since we had to pass through Caen anyway on our way to Paris. As I was waiting, two loud Algerians come out of the elevator, one with bloodshot eyes and a lit joint. He goes behind the counter and opens all the drawers and says loudly, "There's no money!" Then he tried to hand me his joint but some of it falls on the ground so he bends over and spend about a minute trying to pick it up. At that point I said, "F this" and decided while carrying out bags would be a hassle it would be much safer. We would get lucky once again in Arromanches, however, because one of the hotels (a pretty nice looking one at that) kept our bags for free for the couple hours we had to explore.

Arromanches is a tiny little town who's only real importance is that it was the site of Port Winston, the world's largest prefabricated harbor designed by Winston Churchill to be used for the D-Day invasion (really interesting, I suggest googling it). Nathan and I spent a bunch of time such browsing the military and souvenir shops. We also had calvados with our lunch (hard alcohol made from apples, really good). The only thing Nathan and I actually paid to visit was the 360 degree theater, which is a 25 minute movie in a theater that mostly plays real WWII footage on screens that circle the audience. It's cool, if not a little frustrating because you never know which screen to watch. The view from the bluff on which the theater sits makes the hike worth it in itself. Again we had great weather. I just worried that with everything going right we were bound for some rude surprise soon, and the next opportunity for a rough patch was the hotel in Paris.

I chose a different Etap hotel for the night before Nathan left. This one was close to the airport, being less than a 10 minute free shuttle ride away. But it seemed our bad luck had run its course because this hotel was awesome. It smelled clean and the shower was perfect (a good shower being something you learn not to take for granted in Europe). In the morning we had a great breakfast at the hotel too. I couldn't have been more pleasantly surprised.

So there you have it, a happy ending to this turbulent story. I hope it wasn't too much rambling and if you read all the way through it congratulations! You get a gold star (imaginary, of course).

I hope you all back home are having a good week. For me, only three more classes until I'm on another two week vacation! It's ok to be jealous...

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nathan's Visit, Part I

Last week my brother Nathan came to visit me here in France for his spring break. It was his first time to Europe and his first big traveling experience in general. It was a really good time and it was so great to hang out with him and show him France but so many things went wrong that towards the end of the week it was becoming comical. We started expecting the worst in order to be pleasantly surprised by what actually was a success. For both of us it started Friday, March 19th...

Early Friday morning Nathan left from PDX to fly to Washington D.C. and eventually Paris, where I was to meet him upon arrival at 6:25 AM Paris time. There wasn't a train that would get me to the airport early enough so I decided to spend the night in a hotel near the airport so I could be there first, waiting for him. I chose the hotel I did because it was the cheapest (40 something Euros for one night) and right next to the train that would take me straight to the airport. Immediately upon arrival I realized I could not have chosen a worse hotel. First, I didn't have the right train ticket so the little turnstiles wouldn't let me out and I had to wait for someone with the right ticket and double up in the gate with them - awkward to say the least. As I walked from the station to the hotel it was already dark and felt like one of those bad neighborhoods you see in movies but don't expect to be real, with people hanging back in the shadows and sirens going off in the distance. The hotel itself was really gross and made my clothes reek all weekend. There was also at least one pesky mosquito in the room that I could not get rid of. At one point in the night I woke myself up by slapping myself in the face really hard trying to kill it. In the morning when I left to go back to the train station and head to the airport I saw police lights flashing up ahead but before the car rounded the corner these three guys ran into an apartment building and hid. After the cop car slowly passed one of the guys popped his head out and told the others the coast was clear before they all took off running again. Keep in mind that in my bag I was carrying my computer, iPod, and camera so I felt like the perfect target. Nathan and I both made it to the airport fine but me terrified and him sleep deprived, not having gotten a wink of sleep during the previous 24 or so hours. We took the train back to Paris and went to check into our hotel so we could both get some rest.

Nathan and I came out of the metro and I wasn't entirely sure which way we were supposed to go, so I asked a street cleaning guy for the direction of Sacre Coeur, the closest monument that also happened to be in the direction of our hotel. He pointed us in what turned out to be the wrong direction, and we walked through a deluge for a couple blocks before I made us turn around. All the while Nathan was carrying the suitcase because the puddles were just too deep to drag it through. After about 10 more minutes walking this time in the right direction but still through the torrential rain, completely soaked and dripping wet, we got to the hotel. Earlier in the week I realized I had made the reservation for the wrong day, but I called and had it changed and they told me everything was taken care of. Of course this is France, and counting on other people hardly every turns out good results. So the receptionist told me there was no record of that call and that we didn't have a room as they were completely booked. That blows. Infuriated, I let Nathan stay in the lobby with our bags while I walked around to got us another hotel nearby. By now, however, the rain had stopped (naturally). Just up the street, less than a block, I got us a hotel and thought it worth it to pay the 15 more euros a night just to be done with it. Nathan and I then got settled and we both took some time to recover.

Besides the sleep deprivation on Nathan's end, I think Paris went well. I took him to pretty much all the major sights and made sure he got plenty of pictures. I really wanted Nathan to have a good first impression with this country that I have come to love but I worried about him discovering all the bad aspects first, i.e. homeless people, dirty streets, apparent rudeness, the metro, and the list goes on. It's not until you experience the good parts of France that all those others become tolerable, in my opinion. Old world is just so different from the New World feel that I think Paris is one of the worst places to start a visit to France, albeit the most convenient.

By Sunday night Nathan was ready to head to Toucy for R&R after the bustle of Paris. I walked him around and showed him how this small town really isn't that different from small towns like Banks, just a lot older. I also had him try real French food, from bakeries that are cheaper and better than those in Paris. Besides him being a little bored in my room all day while I taught classes, things went well until Tuesday.

Some of my students the week before had asked me if I wanted to go to a soccer match the next week because they were going to buy tickets and offered to pick me up one. I told them I'd love to but my brother would be in town that week, to which they replied, "So we'll get two seats then?" I was excited. The teams we were going to see were PSG (the team I saw play the weekend before with Doug, Danielle, and Liz) and Auxerre, the local team that is actually rated number 1 in France right now. But once again, you can't ever get your hopes up until you're actually there. The game was closed to fans due to a Ministry decision following the riots by PSG fans and the death of one supporter. It was a stupid decision all around because closing the doors at this match only hurt Auxerre because they made no money, it wasn't their fans fault in the least, and, more importantly I might add, Nathan and I didn't get to see the game! It was pretty disappointing because we were both really looking forward to it. But what can you do? Well, you can visit the construction of a 13th century castle.

I wanted to get Nathan out to see some more of the area especially since we didn't have the soccer match anymore, so I decided to show him Guedelon. I wrote about this before, when I went earlier in the year with Marie and loved it. It closed for the winter but just opened up again before Nathan arrived so I thought, "Why not?" The weather couldn't have been better. After a string of snow and rain it was finally turning to Spring, with mostly clear skies and in the 60's. I got to see some of the progression of the building process but also some parts of the complex I hadn't seen before. Most importantly I got to take pictures this time! I think Nathan found it impressive, as did Kathi who came with us. It was a great day, but we would find out later it was just a high point on the roller coaster that was last week...

I added the photos from the whole week but they take awhile to load sometimes so have patience. There will be a Part II to follow soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm a Thief

I completely forgot about another story from last weekend, but better late than never, right? It was around lunch time and so I took Doug and Danielle to this kebab place that I had went to with Cate while she was visiting. I remembered it for three main reasons: 1) It's cheap, 2) you can actually sit down inside and warm up (unlike most kebab places that are takeaway), and 3) there is free tap water, something that is extremely rare in any part of France. I ordered first and then ordered for Danielle who was right behind me since we were getting the same thing. After getting our plates of food I stood there at the counter waiting for the guy to come back so I could pay him but he just avoided me. After a couple minutes he looked up and said, "Can I help you, sir?" From that I assumed that we just paid afterward and Danielle and I headed to a table to eat. Doug came shortly after and we asked him whether he paid or not and he said, "Yeah, he was speaking French to me and I didn't understand so I just gave him money." Interesting. I'm not one to dine and ditch, so after we were finished and overstuffed I approached the counter on the way out meaning to pay but the guy once again completely avoided me, so I just left. I didn't feel bad for it or anything because I gave it an honest shot. Gotta love free food!

My only conclusion is that he recognized me from when I was there in January with Cate and decided I'm enough of a local and bring in enough business that I get one on the house. That, or he just didn't care. Either way I still plan on going back there with Nathan this weekend so we'll see what happens.

Speaking of Nathan, he comes in to Paris tomorrow morning and it's going to be awesome! Unfortunately by "tomorrow morning" I mean "6:25 AM" tomorrow morning. I'm staying in a hotel near the airport tonight by myself so I can pick him up when he lands, not having to navigate Charles de Gaulle airport solo. I'm bringing a journal to jot down our shenanigans, which will then be transferred to the blog (depending on content appropriateness, of course).

I hope everyone has a great weekend!