.....did I also mention dogs in restaurants. With owners who bring their own red food dishes.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Friday, October 22, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
In France people will say “no” just as a first response and sometimes just to spite you.
Which, in the end, means it is is not always a real “no” but more of an invitation for you to show how much you really want something.
In Belgium people will say “no” if it is really “no” from a logical standpoint.
So, both “yes” and “no” are real and static.
In the U.S. if it is not a straight up “yes” people will find a myriad of phrases that only lead to confusion on the part of the receiver, who must then try to decipher what that response really means.
Hours lost in deciphering.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I could just tell it in pictures, but then you wouldn’t know about all the stuff!
Because as we all know, stuff is really important. So bear with me. I promise you pretty pictures…and stuff.
So just like before…ruins, empty churches, and now lots of Dutch people in motorhomes.
We hit a couple of villages on the way out of the gorge and tried to hit Saoû for lunch.
Meal times are even more important while road tripping. If you don’t hit the time (12 to 2) correctly, you may not eat.
There are no McDonalds or supermarkets on the side of these small roads. You may hit a town with only 1 restaurant and if you miss lunch and haven't eaten breakfast, you are screwed until 19h (7pm). Which has been known to make some people inexplicably cranky and punchy.
So, Saoû (pronounced Sue) is a small city (and by that I mean a village with 2 restaurants and 1 corner store) on the edge of a large plateau/mountain of limestone.
It makes for steep white lines topped with a deep and lush green. In summer it is crawling with French and Dutch people. (The Dutch, it seems, are particularly keen on motor homes and the South of France. Goedemiddag to you!)
At 13h30 (1:30pm) we arrive and I get out and find a table in the restaurant in the center of town. I wait for 10 minutes before anyone comes within spitting distance of the table. And apparently lunch is over.
At 13h40 (1:40).
Holding onto my self restraint, I ask where one can eat. We are in luck, there is another restaurant.
Maybe if we run, they will serve us. Please, please, please, let them serve us. So I don't have to come back and murder the rude restaurateur.
So we rush over to the restaurant #2.
Preface: It is something that strikes me as odd that in the middle of nowhere forestland that you can have really good food. Middle-of-big-city kind of good food.
These places are much closer to farm fresh ingredients but you expect that they just wouldn’t care about it as much. It is just food.
But they do. God bless them, they do. Because they are French.
As you can see, we got served at the other restaurant. By nice people, in a converted farm, with excellent and pretty food.
Andalusian gazpacho with balsalmic vinegar and Roquefort cheese appetizer.
So at this point, I have eaten well, I am ready for a hike and I really want to camp. We go to buy some local products in a brewery (this mini town is shaping up to be quite swanky) and there is a young kid running the front. We got warned about camping but I think this kid might know if we are really going to get in trouble for camping or not.
Which, apparently, is yes. He and his friends got caught twice. 400 euro fine and ranger escort back down. And he is a local!
Ugh! I know this will probably be one of our last chances to camp. The further south you get, the less wooded it is and the MORE people there are. Paris is 75% empty and all those parisians are in the South (Plus the Dutch caravan parade). You are lucky if you can find a spot to pee in.
So, the nice kid gives us a recommendation for camping. But what about our 5 hour hike? We decide just to drive into the forest and randomly stop.
We hike vertically up 50 minutes. I am expecting a shack covering an old church, like our first hike. But I am wrong and we are lucky for the 2nd time that day.
We have a beautiful view on all sides and watch the colors change with the fading sun as we hike back down.
Well fed, exhausted. I am happy.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Elle resemble à rien.
"She looks like nothing"
Something really nice to say about a person who is exhausted after a long day of work. Or perhaps just at the beginning of the day if the 40 minute metro ride has not woken them up yet.
Followed swiftly by a comment directly to this person.
"Tu as les petits yeux"
You have small eyes.
I have a secret love for the Prefecture in Paris. So secret, in fact, that I am not quite sure where it exists. But It must exist because I keep on going back for more.
See, the Prefecture of Paris is the “decider” (to put it in the words of W) when it comes to visas. They let you in, they change your status, they make you sign legal documents officially kicking you out. They have the FINAL word.
My first year, I went to the prefecture 3 times, not including the cattle call chest xray government medical evaluation I had to go to.
This year, I had the pleasure of going to the Prefecture 7 times.
And it is a little story that goes like this:
At the beginning of October 2009, I call the Prefecture to apply for my renewal status.
They tell me to get an appointment through their internet site.
I go on the internet site and book myself the earliest available appointment…. It is in December. (Nevermind that my visa expired at the end of October)
December, (1) I go for my appointment.
(Sidenote: The idea of an ‘appointment’ is funny because an appointment at the Prefecture doesn’t give you the right to see someone at a certain time like your printed out paper might lead you to believe. Your appointment just gives you the right to get in line behind all of the other fools with their appointments waiting for judgment.)
So, I go with my papers at the specified time, wait in line for 1 hour. Watch this girl in front of me cry and rant in Russian while someone with better French skills tries to play moderator between her and evil gatekeeper #3. (Gatekeepers are the people you have to show all of your paperwork to in order to make it inside to talk to someone who can actually give you your visa).
The crying Russian leaves, I give the evil gatekeeper #3 my papers. He asks me for more papers that are not on the list. He gives me 4 hours to go around Paris to “get these papers and come back, or take another appointment by internet”…which would be 3 months later.
Why do I care about my visa? I am not quite sure.
I think “screw him” and decide to go on with my day. (I was scheduled to badly teach the English language to 27 delinquent lycéens (high schoolers) in one hour.)
I get to the lycée and the director of the school says to take care of my papers.
I drive around Paris in a taxi to 3 different banks, the gas company and my university to in order to get everything (including 6 bank statements for which my bank charged me 12 euro a piece).
I arrive 20 minutes late (2) and 140 euros poorer (taxi + bank statements) to see the bald and mean postal worker a.k.a. evil gatekeeper #3. I do not tell him that he might have made me lose my job, like I had planned. I SUCK IT UP.
He lets me through to the next level and I wait for another 2 hours in order to be told that I need more papers, also not on the list. And must make an appointment by internet.
(3) Three months later I am again at the metal detectors of the Prefecture. I bring everything back and updated. The gatekeepers don’t trouble me. The guy on the inside (with the power) doesn’t ask for the documents they requested and I was sent away for last time. I keep my mouth shut. He puts my papers through and I must come back again to pick up my visa in 6 weeks.
I come back again to pick up my official renewed card (4). It’s May. I have an appointment, I show my documents. I sign a paper, a man gives me my card. I think I must be severely lacking in sleep or have taken some heavy drugs. The whole procedure takes 15 minutes.
With my official French BAC +5 diploma, I can request an extension of my visa if I do it 4 months in advance. (5) I get the necessary paperwork, pass the metal detectors. Evil baldy post worker/gatekeeper’s buddy, #2 tells me that they are not accepting anyone else and closed 50 minutes ago. I tell her that I checked on the internet to make sure and get their hours right and it says they close at 4:30, not 3:30 like she is implying. She says she is not letting me through but will verify my paperwork so I can come in the next morning. I shut my mouth and let her check. I have to cancel our long weekend plans +hotel + rental car.
I come back the next day and file the paperwork. (6)
3 months later I receive notice to come in on the 7th of October.
I returned last Friday. (7) They make me read and sign a 6 month extension wherein I agree to “definitively leave the territory”. They then take my pretty shiny plastic card that took me 9 months to get and replace it with a flimsy pink and blue paper. I hate them.
But apparently, not. “We only hurt the ones we love”, right? Maybe the Prefecture loves me.
Well, Prefecture I love you too.
I love the gatekeeper/postal worker that cost me 140 Euros and 6 hours of my time so I could be told to get another appointment in 3 months for an unlisted and later unrequested document.
I love the list of unpublished but required paperwork.
I love the hours that aren’t really the hours, and appointments that aren’t really appointments but the right to stand in line.
You have shown me self-restraint I had no idea I had.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Friday, October 8, 2010
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
This is my 3rd October
It is the 3rd October I've seen the markets fill with apples.
The 3rd time I have been so sad to see the shoe stores in ALL black and brown.
The 3rd time I will have my annual Halloween/Harry Potter party/excuse to invite a bunch of girls to my house and make them eat baked brie and toasted sliced almonds from the same plate (french gasp).
My 3rd time dragging my boyfriend out into into the gray abyss that is parisian stone and the constant cloud covered sky to see the fiery colored trees.
My 3rd year witnessing the trees being sheared naked.
The 3rd bearing down for drizzly, blustery, chill-to-the-bones winter in Paris.