Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Years!

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, wherever you are. 

Since our plans to go visit friends in Grenoble got cancelled at the last minute, we are spending New Years here in Paris.  After some last minute phone calls this morning to try to plan something, we have a few friends coming over for dinner and to celebrate the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 (can you believe it, 2011?!).

Enjoy your New Years and have a very happy and prosperous 2011!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!  I hope you are enjoying the holidays with friends and family.

I'm having a very nice Christmas with my family-in-law down in Arcachon.  We had a long and delicious meal last night of figs, toasts, oysters, sausages, salad, goose (!), stuffing, chestnuts, green beans wrapped in bacon and buche.  We washed it all down with tons of different wines...white, red and champagne.  At midnight we opened all our gifts (and there were a ton this year) then off to bed.

This afternoon we had another big meal of foie gras, magret de canard, lamb, potatoes, salad and pecan pie (made by yours truly).  After eating we went for a walk at the port.  It was a bit cold and windy along the water, but it was a beautiful day with sun and blue skies, so it was well worth it.  This evening we will be eating another big meal and then certainly passing out from having filled our stomachs too much!

Hope everyone else is having a wonderful holiday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Le nouveau house guest

Well, we have a guest in the apartment at the moment:


Lionel found this little guy lost and alone in the cold outside his work on Monday.  He brought him into his office and one of his colleagues called a vet friend to come check him out.  The vet couldn't find anything to identify him - no tattoo, no chip, nothing.  So Lionel decided to bring him home rather than let him go to get killed by a car at the Porte de Champerret.  He is keeping his eye out for posters near his work about a lost cat and he has been looking for information on the internet too, but if we don't see anything and can't find a family who is looking for him, we are going to keep him.  Secretly, this is what I really want...for there to be no family so we can keep the little guy since I've been begging for a cat for almost a year.  Not to mention he has been here since Monday night and I'm already getting really attached.  So here's hoping there is no family out there with a little kid crying about their missing cat so I get to keep ce petit mec adorable!


So far he's made himself right at home, sleeping all over the apartment, following Lionel and I wherever we go, sleeping snuggled up with us in bed at night, exploring and climbing on everything and claiming every surface as his own.

He seems to be pretty young, though we aren't certain of his age.  We think he is somewhere around 8 months.  We already love having him around, except when he wakes us up at 6:30 in the morning.   But he is absolutely adorable, loves to be petted, loves to cuddle and likes to have all of the attention!


Let's just hope I get to keep him, cause if we have to give him back it's going to be very hard!  And then Lionel will have to find me another cat because I can't imagine not having one around now!

***Of course, this does not mean in any way that I have forgotten about my precious little Rusty who passed away a month ago.  I'm actually feeling pretty guilty about wanting to adopt another cat so soon after my dear pet's death.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Been busy with Christmas decorations this past week:

wreath we bought at the Christmas market in Germany

our tree...the biggest one we've ever had in France

the tree

some of our decorations

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weekend away

A few photos from our weekend trip to Trier, Germany where we did some sightseeing and enjoyed the adorable Christmas market in Germany's oldest city:

Porta Nigra, the world's best preserved Roman city gate

center of town

Christmas market and the main square

the Christmas market

Enjoying some hot wine!  You pay a little extra for the mug and then you can either return the mug
and get the money back or keep it as a cheap souvenir!

Lionel and I freezing our butts off at the Christmas market

the town decorated for the holidays

Christmas market at night

And on the drive home we decided to stop in Luxembourg City for a few hours to check it out:

Lionel and I visiting the city

the main square

city gate

the Christmas market

the cathedral

Christmas decorations

Even though the weather wasn't so great (freezing cold and snowing half the weekend), it was a great trip and a wonderful weekend and I was thrilled to get out of Paris and spend some quality time with Lionel!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A la biche au bois

Last week I mentioned that Lionel and I went to one of my favorite restaurants here in Paris to celebrate our second anniversary.  Let me just say that, as usual, it was fabulous.

A la biche au bois (45 avenue Ledru-Rollin in the 12th, 01 43.43.34.38) is a great restaurant serving delicious French cooking in very large quantities for a pretty reasonable price.

They serve a number of traditional French dishes such as coq au vin, homemade foie gras, terrines and steak au poivre all year, and during hunting seasonn they also serve gibiers, or game.  My favorite time of year to go is during hunting season because their cassoulette de biche is incredible.  I pair it with the salade biche en entrée, whatever cheeses I feel like, and then the amazing opéra biche en dessert.  We wash it all down with a good bottle of wine, and then we roll ourselves out the door as it is nearly impossible to avoid stuffing yourself at this place.

the delicious cassoulette de biche served with the best mashed potatoes I have ever had.
I would have taken photos of the other courses, but I was too busy eating and I forgot.

The restaurant has a great fixed price menu and the price is more than reasonable for the quality and quantity you receive.  For 26.90 euros you get your choice of appetizer, your choice of main dish, your choice of cheeses off of the cheese platter that they bring to your table (I highly recommend the chèvre au poivre) and your choice of dessert.  That's right...4 courses for less than 30 euros.  While this may seem expensive (and we certainly only go once or twice a year for special occasions or with visiting family), the food is excellent and homemade.

The place is small but comfortable and the owner is very nice.  The service is great by French standards, thus average by American standards, and the restaurant has somewhat of an old-fashioned feel to it.  While the decor may leave a bit to be desired, the food is the real treat, and in my opinion, you can't go wrong.  I've tasted a number of things off the menu and I've never been disappointed.  Though if I go during hunting season I never order anything but that cassoulette de biche.

I definitely suggest checking this place out, but reservations are a must!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving à Paris

I celebrated Thanksgiving on Friday with Lionel and some of his friends, and it was great.  I got home from work, cooked like a madwoman and then everyone showed up and we enjoyed a little aperitif then sat down for dinner.  We ate and ate and ate till we couldn't eat any more, then we took a little break before digging into dessert.

the buffet...pumpkin bread, green bean casserole, corn, mashed sweet potatoe and butternut squash,
roasted carrots, stuffing, gravy and a whole, stuffed turkey from Picard (thanks Ksam!)

enjoying Thanksgiving dinner

my delicious plate!

The only little snag was there were supposed to be 7 of us, but then two of Lionel's friends just never showed up and never called, which I think is pretty rude, but oh well.  We still had fun and it just meant more food for us!

the pies...one pumpkin and one pecan (and the pecan pie was DELICIOUS!)

All in all, it was a great Thanksgiving with lots of traditional foods and tons of eating.  Hope everyone else had a great Thanksgiving, wherever you were!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Gobble Gobble

Even though Thanksgiving is today, I'll be celebrating tomorrow with a big Thanksgiving dinner, after I cook it of course!  I have at least 7 people coming and lots of cooking to do once I get off work, but it should be worth it!  On the menu is turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, roasted carrots, corn, mashed sweet potatoes and butternut squash, corn bread, pumpkin bread, pecan pie and pumpkin pie.  Should be a great time with lots of good food!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2 years!

Today Lionel and I celebrated two years of marriage!  I can't believe we have been married for two whole years...its seems like the time has passed so quickly!  It still seems weird to me to say that I am married, especially since if you had asked me 6 years ago, I never expected to ever be married.  But there you go...funny how life happens like that!  But I'm thrilled to be married to my little Frenchie and I'm looking forward to many more years to come!

So, in honor of the occasion, Lionel and I went out to dinner to celebrate tonight.  He took me to my favorite restaurant, A la Biche au Bois, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal of delicious French country cooking.  But more about that in another post...

The only downside was that we are both sick (his fault as he got sick first and gave it to me) so we weren't able to completely enjoy our evening out and we couldn't completely taste our food...but it was still a nice night out!

We will also be celebrating in two weekends when we are treating ourselves to our traditional anniversary/Christmas trip.  Every year around the time of our wedding anniversary (and incidentally the anniversary of when we met) and Christmas we take a weekend trip to visit a new city in Europe, but always one that is known for it's Christmas markets as well.  We've already been to Strasbourg, Brussels and Prague for little Christmas/anniversary trips and this year we are planning to take the car and head to Trier, Germany to visit the oldest city in Germany and enjoy it's charming Christmas market.  While there we are either gonna take a day trip and hit up Aachen, Germany (Aix-la-Chapelle) or Luxembourg City.  We haven't decided yet, but we'll see!

All in all I'm pretty happy with this year's anniversary celebrations as last year (for our FIRST wedding anniversary) I got nothing...no restaurant, no trip (cause we were about to head to the US), nothing!  This year is much better!

So, happy anniversary Lionel!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blah...

Yes, blah.  Because that is pretty much how I'm feeling right now.  This week is looking like it is going to be pretty crappy, and at this point I am just hoping to make it through to the weekend.

The week started off badly with the bad news about my cat on Sunday, and it hasn't been getting any better.  Monday we woke up to an unpleasant email regarding Lionel's grandfather who is currently in intensive care after a heart attack.  Unfortunately, we don't have much news other than that for the moment...

Then today I woke up to head to Val de Fontenay this morning to see my two favorite students.  But after four hours of chatting about everything and nothing, I left feeling even more depressed than I was Sunday and Monday.  It was quite strange actually, and I don't know how the conversation even started, but for some reason we were talking about shopping*.  The two women are good friends and so they started to talk about each other's style (all in English, don't worry) and give each other fashion advice.  Then they turned to me to give me some advice and to tell me what they thought my perfect outfit would be (a dress, apparently...like that is ever going to happen!).  Up to this point it was all good, we were talking about shopping and clothes...only natural for three women! 

They continued saying that they really thought I should buy a dress the next time I went shopping, but that I should make sure that I bring a friend with me because it is always important to have a friend's advice when picking out clothes.  It is, afterall, best to have someone else's opinion besides your own and a girl friend is best for this, NEVER your husband, they said.  And I started to think in my head how nice some retail therapy would be considering the way this week started.  I hadn't been shopping in forever (the last time I bought clothes for myself was in the US in August and it was all stuff I needed, nothing I WANTED), so I told myself to find some time to meet up with a friend and go shopping this week or over the weekend.  And that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks...

...I have no more friends in Paris.

I wrote before about how all of my friends were leaving France to return home, but it hadn't really hit me yet that it had actually happened.  You see, the last holdouts left last week on Monday and Friday respectively, and this morning when my students were talking about how great it is to go shopping with friends, the reality finally hit me that I no longer have any friends here.

Ok, that's not entirely true.  I still have Svetlana, but she is so busy being the "perfect" Russian wife that I don't see her very often, usually about once every 2-3 weeks and its only for an hour or two for coffee. 

So, while just 2 months ago I had a small, but great network of friends here in Paris and I found myself so busy between friends and Lionel that I thought I would never have a chance to just sit back, relax and sleep, now I am realizing that I am back to being all alone with nothing to do but spend time with my husband.  Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with spending time with my husband, but he is a homebody and sometimes I just need to get out and do things outside of the house and see people and have girl time.  But it doesn't look like that will be happening anytime soon.  For the first time in all my years in France I find myself with no one to turn to and no one to do things with and it just really hit home this morning while listening to my students talk about the importance of shopping with friends.

Looks like I'm really going to have to make an effort to go to some meetup groups now in hopes of meeting some interesting people and making a friend or two before I go insane by myself.

*I promise I'm not a horrible English teacher and we don't usually talk about shopping during my lessons!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bad news...

I spoke to my parents yesterday, as I do every Sunday, and I got some bad news.  Rusty, my/our cat, was put to sleep last week.


We had the little guy for almost 15 years, since before I started high school, and he was always such a good, but strange, cat.  He hated being held, but always had to be in the room with everyone.  He never really appreciated traditional cat toys, but instead preferred hair ties and a black Beanie Baby cat that he stole from me when I was younger and carried around with him every where he went.  He would even try to "feed" his black toy kitten.  He loved to play with bubbles in the sink but was terrified of bubbles in the air.  He was also terrified of plastic bags, the washing machine, vacuum cleaners, other cats, most people and a million other things.  He didn't show his love by begging to be petted, but rather by following people from room to room and sneaking into bed at night.

Unfortunately, while I was home in August, I noticed that he had lost quite a bit of weight.  When I asked my parents about it they said he had been coughing a lot and breathing weirdly lately and he hadn't been eating as much as usual.  We took him to the vet and were told that Rusty had asthma and needed a shot every 6 weeks, but that otherwise he would be fine and start eating again.

However, a week and a half  ago my parents told me he had been getting worse and had lost more weight so back to the vet he went, and after a ton of tests and more problems, they discovered he had to tumors surrounding his heart.  They were told that if he didn't start eating soon they would have to make the decision to put him down.  As you can imagine it was with trembling hands that I called yesterday, fearing the worst, and unfortunately he wasn't improving and they had to have him put down rather than slowly die, suffering.

They took his ashes home and buried him next to the birdbath (that I didn't even know they had!) with his little black kitty.

I'm devastated that I didn't get to see him again and I'm going to miss the little furball so much.  He was my first real pet (before that it was always hamsters and fish) and he was truly loved and an important part of the family.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chronopost vs la Poste

After today, I can't decide which one is worse**!  Lionel and I made a important purchase online this week, and since we wanted it to arrive quickly, we decided to pay the extra 4 euros for Chronopost so our order from Tuesday night would arrive Friday morning instead of sometime in the next few weeks with la Poste.  Boy was that a mistake!

As promised, the package arrived today.  However, Chronopost claims to have tried to deliver it at 10:41 this morning, but if they did, they certainly didn't try to call to the apartment because I was home all day and, bien sur, no one knocked and no one called with the interphone or the phone.  As a result, we had to go pick up the package this evening.  But where?

One would think this would be a simple question...normally the location is indicated on the slip that is left to let you know they tried to deliver your package.  But it wasn't clear.  The delivery guy marked that we could pick it up at the bureau de poste, but didn't indicate which one (we have 2 near us).  But also on the slip it was stated that the package would be held for 7 days at the bureau de Chronopost indicated on the slip before being sent to the bureau de poste where it would be held for 14 days.  Ok, strange.  And fabulous;  the bureau de Chronopost is in Rungis!

Just to make sure, I decided to check online with the suivi de l'envoi using the tracking number.  When I checked it stated, and I quote "RUNGIS CHRONOPOST Parcel awaiting collection at point of retrieval."  So to me it seemed pretty clear, the package was indeed at the Chronopost in Rungis. 

So we checked on mappy for directions then hopped into the car.  After 30 minutes for miserable traffic on the N7 we finally made it out to Rungis.  But where was the Chronopost?  This place is IMPOSSIBLE to find.  We passed it once, had to turn around, take the N7 back, go around the centre commercial, pass next to the tolls to enter the Marché International de Rungis, then take the N7 back south to try to get to the Chronopost.  Only one problem:  which exit do we take?  So we picked one and prayed for the best.  Unfortunately; it just took us to the tolls on the other side of the Marché de Rungis.  So we had to go all the way back around and try another exit, which finally brought us to the Chronopost (all this driving in circles...and I mean circles...ended up taking about an hour).  At this point we were just relieved to be at the Chronopost and we hurried up to the door to get our package.  We handed our slip over, the guy looked up the tracking number, and surprise surprise, our package isn't there!  It's at our bureau de poste!  Idiots!

At this point it was 8pm and la Poste was closed so we have to go in tomorrow to pick up the package, after making a call to verify which post office it is at and, bien sur, that the package is actually there since I apparently can't trust any of the mail delivery services in this ridiculous country anymore!  Knowing my luck it's probably lost somewhere in France!  And clearly that was an extra 4 euros well spent...

So you be the judge...which is worse, Chronopost or la Poste???

**I know that in my last post I indicated a desire to try to be slightly less negative toward la France, but I just can't help it...it's all so stupid!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trop negative?

Lately I have been hearing a lot that I am too negative regarding France/the French and that some people are even starting to wonder why I even live in this country.

I was honestly a little shocked by this as I didn't think I was ever that negative, and I also always thought that when I was being negative against France that it was only things that most French people would even agree with i.e. slow bureaucracy, la poste, etc.  However; according to most of my husbands friends, a few of my French friends, and even some distant acquaintances I am far more negative than I ever thought.

While my extremely negative mind is screaming "it's because you are French and you are happy to critique everyone else and any other country, but can't stand the thought that there could ever be anything bad to be said about yours because France is perfect and the French are perfect," I have to wonder whether or not there is any truth to this; perhaps I am very negative and there is a reason to ask why I am living in this country.  I always thought it would be interesting to find out the good and the bad about what people think about America and their experiences living there, but I guess this is another cultural differences between France and America; while I am very curious, the French, perhaps, do not want to know.

So, I have decided I want to open myself up to some critique about my country and see what I think about it and if I find myself being insulted.  I, of course, already know the basics, the things I hear all the time about America/Americans: we are all fat, self-centered, unfashionable, superficial, cultureless, gun-toting cowboys who like to shoot everyone, don't know or care about the rest of the world and who work too much and never take vacation.  But I am very curious to hear more about what other people (especially the French) think about our system, our way of life, etc in America.  I am hoping that hearing other people's critiques of the US will help me realize that things are complicated and ridiculous everywhere when you are an expat and will help to cure me of some (if not all) of my negativity.

And so, I am hoping to get some help.  I am looking primarily for books, but I suppose blogs would work as well (though I would like at least one book) that talk about a French person's experience living in the US.  I am thinking something similar to Stephen Clarke's books, A Year in the Merde, Merde Actually and other such books that point out the problems/differences in an entertaining way.  I'm also, of course, open to any blogs on the subject of ex-pat life in America (particularly from the French viewpoint).

I am very open to whatever suggestions I can get as I am very curious to hear what foreigners think about life in America, the administration, the differences between their culture and ours, etc.  So please, help me!!!  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Finally des bonnes nouvelles!

After ranting and complaining here and here about my 2 month long battle with La Poste to get a checking account, I am happy to report that said account is FINALLY OPEN!

I am also thrilled that none of my money was lost...my check from my old job showed up in the account and my new boss ended up getting my September pay back after 20 days and she sent me a check for it!

Now I just have to decide if I am going to listen to Lionel and keep my money in that stupid bank with its incompetent workers, or if I'm going to remove my money, close my account and stick with Société Générale.

Today I feel guilty...

I am a bad American.  Why?  Because I did not vote today.  I was too late trying to get my absentee information in and so I was not able to vote in today's elections.  And I feel guilty.


I can't say that whatever disasters happen in my country are my fault as I'm sure that my one vote wouldn't have made a difference in the end, but I still feel guilty for not voting.  I try very hard to continue voting even though I live abroad, but this one time I let time get away from me and I realized too late that I wouldn't be able to vote.  And I feel horrible because my party of choice definitely needed all the support they could get...

Here's hoping things work out the way I want in the end, though looking at the projections has me very concerned!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Burger King de retour en France?

...nope!  But it's a hop, skip and a jump away...in London.
 
The other day I was taking the metro home, and as I passed thru Chatelet, I looked up to see how many people were getting on, only to see a wall of posters with the Burger King logo and a hamburger.  I immediately got excited at the idea of Burger King returning to France...Burger King à deux pas d'ici!  Yes! I thought, and then I noticed at the bottom of the posters, (because seriously, there are like 5 alone at Chatelet on the line 7) London in 2 hours and 15 minutes.
 
I immediately thought this was some kind of cruel joke seeing as many French people are upset that Burger King ever even left France.  But no, Eurostar is actually advertising Burger King in London to try to attract people who miss the fast food restaurant and are willing to travel to another country to get it. Apparently the French blogosphere and Twitter community have been going crazy about Burger King coming back and the French seem to have been very excited about the possible return of Burger King...but oh, joke's on us cause they aren't coming back!  This just seems mean to me!
 

 
Honestly, I'm not even that big of a Burger King fan, but I do prefer it to most other fast food hamburger restaurants and I would be happy to be able to go from time to time if it were back in France...but I'm certainly not taking the Eurostar to London just to get Burger King!  Who had the idea for this advertisement because it's just ridiculous!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Continuing battle with La Poste

Well, my battle with the evil Poste continues, and unfortunately with no end in sight.  A week and a half ago (after one of the banker strikes ended) Lionel went to the post office to bring them the pay stub they needed in order to FINALLY open my account.  When I had spoken to my banker on the phone, he assured me that once they had that precious pay stub, my account would be open in 2-3 days.  

Well, guess what!  It's still not open (big shocker there)!  Since I had no time around lessons to call today, my husband spent his morning before work, as well as some of his time at work, trying to call these morons and get some information.  At the centre financier they were only able to tell him that the account was still not open (of course they didn't know why) and apparently the people Lionel spoke to were so stupid they didn't really understand anything when he asked them about my check from my old job and the transfer from my new job.

He then tried to call our banker, who of course didn't answer (let me guess...he's on strike???).  So, Lionel is going to go there tomorrow morning (since I don't have any time to do any of this before Monday) and have a "nice chat" with the idiot to find out what is going on.

At the moment, as far as we can tell, despite the stupidity of the people at the financial center, they still have my check somewhere but my September pay is still missing in action.  My boss still has received it back in her account - it was debited at the beginning of the month - and no one seems to know where it is.

Hopefully we will have some more info (and some good news) tomorrow when Lionel goes in and raises hell.  I have a lot of money in jeopardy, and it is really starting to stress me out and affect my sleeping!  If we don't know anything by Monday, these morons are seriously going to regret their absolute stupidity when a VERY angry American comes in screaming!

I mean really...individual bank accounts are the most basic service they offer, and if they can't even do that, then what are they doing?  How do you trust a bank that hasn't even mastered the most simple aspect of its industry???

And once again...I highly recommend that you never bank with La Banque Postale...I certainly don't think I am going to after all this!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Musée des Egouts de Paris

This weekend I finally went to the Musée des Egouts de Paris (Paris Sewers Museum), which I  have been wanting to do for years, especially after having read Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, and just haven't gotten around to until now.

display on sewer inhabitants...

The museum is located in the sewers and is actually pretty interesting.  At the beginning there is a somewhat boring display on water in Paris - how it circulates, how it gets to our apartments, how it is cleaned, etc - but then there is a large and interesting display on the history of the sewage system in Paris, starting in the Gallo-Roman period and continuing to present day.

a main sewer tunnel

access tunnel

Since the museum is located in a section of the actual sewer system you also get to see the different kinds of sewage tunnels and you get to have an idea of how the system actually works.  The only problem is the somewhat unpleasant smell, but it's not too bad.

smaller sewer tunnel

All in all, an interesting and different museum which is definitely worth a visit!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sécu miracles do happen

After my long lasting battle with the Sécu and my small success back in May, I am happy to report that I am FINALLY the proud (and ecstatic) owner of my very own carte vitale!!!

I found out while I was on vacation in the US that I finally had a social security number for France, instead of the numéro provisoire that I've had since somewhere between December and May, and now I actually have the card to go with the number!  I think, however, that the only reason I got a number so quickly (can we call 3 years quickly?) is because upon hiring me, my new job put in a request for a social security number for me since they thought it was ridiculous I had been waiting so long for one.  It must have really made the difference, seeing an additional request for my number, because not even 2 weeks later, I got an email from my new boss telling me that I had my number.

Upon returning from vacation I found a letter from the Sécu requesting a photograph and I immediately sent it in and crossed my fingers that I would have a card by the end of 2010.  However, imagine my shock and surprise this evening when I pulled our mail out of our mail box, glanced down at it in the dark parking lot and thought "assurance maladie, it's certainly for Lionel," without even looking at the name on the envelope, and then when I entered the apartment and could see better, noticed my name.  I stood there for a moment while comprehension set in and then I screamed.  Lionel looked up from cooking (yes, he actually cooks!) and stared at me like I was crazy as I screamed and ripped open the envelope only to see my brand new carte vitale with my name and photo and scream even louder.

Anyway, long story short, after 3 years of waiting, I am overwhelmingly happy to have this carte vitale that has caused me such a headache and cost me so much time.  Looks like I'm going to start scheduling some appointments with doctors since I haven't been to any sort of doctor in 4-5 years (since I had insurance in the US).

And thus the end (I hope) of the carte vitale story!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Weekend in Angers

This past weekend I visited my friend Julie in Angers in the Anjou region (or Maine-et-Loire department).  I arrived Friday night on an extremely expensive TGV and left Sunday afternoon on another, equally expensive TGV. 

city of Angers

I was shocked to discover how beautiful Angers is.  The city is located on the Maine River and boasts a medieval chateau, an interesting cathedral and lots of old, small streets and half-timbered houses.

Angers and the cathedral from the banks of the Maine River

On Friday night, Julie took me out to her favorite bar and we spent hours catching up.  On Saturday, we mostly stayed near her place, a bit outside of the center of the city and we spent the afternoon walking around and relaxing...just enjoying spending some time together.  On Sunday we headed into the center and walked around and she showed me the cathedral and the chateau before we had to head to the train station so I could go back to Paris.

Julie and I

chateau d'Angers

street in Angers

cathedrale d'Angers

Overall the weekend was relaxing and amazing and I had a great time with Julie and discovering her city.

Julie and I visiting Angers

Friday, October 8, 2010

A wunderbar weekend at Oktoberfest

Last week some friends and I decided to make VERY last minute plans to go to Oktoberfest in Munich.  We had been wanting to go for years and we had just never been able to make it work out...until now!  So last week we talked about it, decided to rent a big, comfortable car for the weekend and drive there (and by WE driving, I really mean ME driving)!  And we ended up being quite an interesting group...2 Americans, 2 Canadians (1 Quebecoise) and 1 Moroccan.

in the car

We left after work on Friday night and drove all night, stopping only for coffee and a short nap at a rest area in Germany.  Though mappy told us it would only take 7.5 hours to drive from Paris to Munich, it took us about 12 hours. We arrived in Munich early Saturday morning, and since we didn't have a place to stay, we drove around for a while looking for a place to park the car (or portable hotel), and then headed to Oktoberfest!

finally, Oktoberfest!

We arrived at Oktoberfest around 11:00 am and, since it was the last weekend, there were already tons of people there.  We walked around for a bit, then got in line to get into a beer tent.  Once we got in we realised we would never be able to get a seat so we headed back out to enjoy some delicious German food, then got in line for a beer garden.  The line was long, and the security people weren't letting anyone in, so when the scary security lady where we were waiting turned to take off her jacket, we snuck past her along with some other people, and we quickly split up so she couldn't find us since she kicked the other group back out.  We miraculously managed to find a table right away and ordered some liter steins of delicious, golden Oktoberfest beer.  Though we were all exhausted from barely sleeping the night before (I only slept about 1 hour, but drove about 12 hours), the beers woke us up, and we ended up staying at that same beer garden from 1 pm to 10 pm, right before the tents closed.

the first liters

the first liters

yum!*

making friends

our server carrying 12 liter steins!

he taught me how to hold six

enjoying Oktoberfest

We had a lot of fun, drank far too many liters of beer and met tons of fun and interesting people from all over the world (England, Australia, Germany, France, Spain, Brazil...I don't even know!)  It was a lot of fun and an experience I will never forget and hope to repeat next year!

the beer garden we spent the day at

hofbrau beer tent...I really wanted to go but the line was waaaay too long

paulaner and lowenbrau beer tents

the Bavaria statue

Oktoberfest

view of Oktoberfest

I was also VERY proud of myself as I drove for the first time ever in Paris (and survived!) and drove for the first time ever in Europe being the principal (and only) driver!  Usually when I drive, I'm with my husband and we just pull over and let me drive for a while on the highway...but this was all me, in Paris, in Munich, and everywhere in between!  And we made it, with no accidents and only a near heart attack on my part when I had to drive in Paris (and by near heart attack I mean freaking out, nearly crying, screaming a lot and, well, we will just say I'm ashamed of the number of curse words that came out of my mouth in a mere 30 mins...I think I broke a record!).

After we left Oktoberfest, we headed back to the car for some sleep (along with a million other people who slept in their cars in the same field as us) and woke up early Sunday morning (miraculously hangover free) to start the looong drive back to Paris, stopping only for food and coffee.  We got back to Paris in the evening and all headed home, exhausted (I think I slept 4 hours the entire weekend and drove 24 hours!) but very happy with our fun and adventurous weekend and our first Oktoberfest experience!

*I am not an alcoholic...I just really love German beer!