A farewell and a re-acquaintance

Today we got up early and to head off to Adelaide airport. No, no, we weren’t getting onto a plane ourselves, though it was tempting. We were there to see my Mum off on her three month world tour. Yes indeed, she is going round the world in probably just a bit more than eighty days.

So we were down at the airport. The weather was grey, chilly and slightly wet, so of course, being in an airport in that weather, I thought of Scotland. And England. Having been to airports in both countries and almost always in that kind of weather, the parallel practically drew itself.

An interesting thing about the Adelaide airport is just how much many people we know don’t like it. When it was built there seems to have been quite a lot of complaints about the style and facilities. I would have to say though, speaking as a seasoned international traveller, the airport is really quite nice. It’s definitely on par to most of the modern airports I’ve been through recently. Stansted, Hong Kong, Charles-de-Gaul, Glasgow International. They all have the same cool but not cold, high and airy feel that is never claustrophobic.

The only criticism I would put forward is that it’s perhaps a bit small. For a city of around 1.5 million people, and one that wants to attract more direct international flights, it was, I believe, built to only handle the capacity it was already managing. But that is a small point really. Well, that and the fact that the facilities only accept Australian dollars. I wouldn’t mind being able to spend my spare euros/pounds/yen that I have left over from my travels there and I’m sure others would too. But still, a minor point as well.

So anyway, we sat at the airport with my Mum and my brother Joseph and had a chat for a while, had coffee and cake and things from Cocolat, a very nice chocolate, cake and other things shop with branches around Adelaide. We chatted about the upcoming trip and where she would be staying. She’s heading off to a stopover in Singapore first, then to London for a week or so, then to Paris, then Lourdes, then somewhere north of Paris, back to London, to Scotland (in and around Glasgow) then to Seattle to visit my brother Peter, another stopover somewhere or other in the Pacific, then back home to Adelaide. Whew! All up, just under three months.

When she finally set off to get ready to board and we did the traditional looking at planes with the kids bit, we headed off out. Since we were all the way out at the Airport, a not too small deal for people without cars, we thought we’d notch up another bird by heading out to see … IKEA!

Well it was not quite the massive excitement it must have been for the others, because I had come down to see it in the first few weeks we were back. I went down with Joe to look at shelves or something. Well to tell you the truth, the others didn’t really have quite the enormous thrill I may have indicated either. It is just Ikea after all.

Don’t get me wrong though, Ikea is rather great. It is probably somewhere I imagine we will be buying all sorts of stuff from in the future. What is rather impressive about it though, is that all the stores, within some small margin, are rather identical. Plus I really like their meatballs and their coffee is good. Not to mention the fact that they stock all kinds of cool northern European snacks and Diam Chocolate!

So we wandered and wondered at the sameness of it all. We bought a small present for a friends two year old whose birthday we were going to on the weekend. We bought a small, ceramic, kids crockery set (very cute, we have one for our own guys). Then we had some food at their restaurant, got some snacks to go (and I got a one dollar hotdog!!) and then we headed home.

Rain, chill and grey. Airports and Ikea. Hmm, I really do miss Scotland!

Pique-nique de Pâque dans le Parc

Hello all. We finally have our own Internet connection, so now maybe posting regularly could be a reality. Of course I am very busy with study and my “crazy projects” so I’ll just have to see what happens. Unfortunately we only have dial-up, so I now have to come to terms with being back in the slow lane after hitching a high speed ride with my brother for several months while we were staying at my Mum’s house. Thanks for that by the way mon frère.

We’ve settled into the new house nicely in the main. The wiring is a bit dodgy and the light bulbs seem to blow far too often and the plumbing has needed a bit of a look at as well as a couple of other little things. But other than these small issues, it is quite a nice house a good price. Two bedroom and two story, although I think I have already mentioned that. Nice small back yard with some big trees and some big trees out the front too.

Over the summer, which hasn’t been too hot, though the temperature did bump up a wee bit, the house has stayed very cool indeed. This is in part because of the house being made from proper solid brick instead of the paper thin varieties of plaster board and thin brick veneers that most houses these days seem to be made from. So the house has retained a cool, fresher air than one of those houses. It’s quite a relief when one gets back in from a warm day to meet that natural coolness. We’ll have to see if the house keeps warm in the winter though, that can sometimes be a problem with these houses where they feel like an ice box in winter and need constant heating.

I’ve especially been enjoying having an upstairs mini-balcony just off the main bedroom. We have developed a tendency to sleep with the main door open and the screen door locked. It’s quite nice to fall asleep hearing the wind in the branches, very relaxing. Some might say Zen.

Anyway, I might just pop up a few details of what’s been going on recently. The most obvious for today is of course Easter (la Fête de Pâque) and we actually went out and spent it with other human beings. French human beings.

The French Benevolent Association of SA held a pique-nique at Hazelwood Park, a lovely park over in the east of Adelaide. This was of course full of francophonic type people as well as francophilic type people. As much as I would love to count myself in the former group, we all mostly fit into the latter. Despite this, the pique-nique was very enjoyable. We got there with our rather French assortment of goodies (well I thought so anyway) consisting of crusty bread, a brie from Normandy called St Siméon (seems to be somewhat similar to a coulommier, but that may not be quite right), some salad and some muffins and stuff. My Mum had come with Joseph and my foster sister Erin, and Annmarie’s Mum and Brother Justin had come along as well. We all tried to keep with the French and Easter themes.

The day was very nice, warm and bright so everyone had a good time. There was an Easter egg hunt pour les enfants, Willow and Gabriel enjoyed that very much. We enjoyed being amongst the French speakers but were a bit shy about trying to speak to too many people earlier in the day. Some of the members of the Association came around and chatted-in English-but we mostly kept to ourselves unfortunately.

Later when we had all eaten and packed up our stuff, we played some football (European, not Aussie) and then we started thinking of heading off. Willow had wanted to get some phone numbers of some of the French children and I went along to hold the pen and tell her our number so she could write it. After she had swapped numbers with one of the other families, I dove in and started a chat in French.

Considering my skill level and volume of real experience, I think it went quite well. I went through the basics of introduction and greeting. Was introduced to another, described my Family and my current state of French studies and how much Annmarie had studied. I even added that that we had stayed in Paris for a couple of months last year. This was my only downfall in maintaining the conversation.

I just completely misheard, “Est-ce que vous l’aimez?” after saying we had stayed in Paris. This translates into “Did you like it?”. Seeing that I was trying to decipher it, she rephrased to “Est-ce que vous amiez Paris?” or something like that, referring to Paris directly, but I was already lost. She put it in English and the penny dropped and I had one of those moments of “Oh! l’aimez!” and then we continued in French again.

Overall I was quite pleased with my efforts, I was even complemented on my French-and quite forgot to reply with my trained light-hearted rejoinder to downplay the compliment, apparently very common in France. I went through all the basics that we have covered in my Uni course and then added some more. Describing other people, describing the past and other places. It was quite exciting to converse in another language. I could feel my brain rebelling against the fluency concept though and desperately wanting to slow down and translate. Having a person there waiting for an answer does help to spur on the brain though.

So, the rest of today has been eating Easter chocolate (Lindt and Haighs mostly, we do like nice chocolate) and generally getting ready for tomorrow when Annmarie’s brother is turning up with his four kids, so there will be much activity then.

As said before, I am looking to keep this blog up-to-date™ from now on.


A Monday morning

Well it’s Monday morning and I’m back in the internet cafe and doing the job application dance. Still not much in the way of positive responses yet though. I’ve sent off my application for the antiquities transportation job with a better than usual cover letter so hopefully that should perk up some interest.

The weekend was quite pleasant. On the Saturday we took a train off the Versailles. We got off to a bit of a late start, but the trip out is not that long, about 40 minutes or so on the RER C line. Our biggest problem was getting tickets.

My credit card has not seemed to work once on the automatic machines that let you buy the more expensive tickets and I never seem to have enough change on me to get carnets of tickets or pricier ones. Once I did actually find a machine that took notes, though Annmarie noticed it and I almost missed it. It was one of those amusing situations which went something like this:

Me: “Hmm, my credit card never works in these things and I don’t have enough change.”
Annmarie: “Why don’t you just use notes?”
Me: “These things don’t take notes … hang on … Oh! I see.”

So we needed to go find a ticket counter to get tickets. We found one that was closed checked the machines and went and found another one, that closed for lunch the moment we got there. There was a lady there that informed us that there was another counter upstairs. We had come from upstairs and so it seemed she was telling us to back. We did but they were still closed.

After about ten more minutes of walking around we found our way to yet another desk, that was in the metro section rather than the RER and was up then downstairs. Still, we got the tickets and onto the train and were on our way.

The town is absolutely lovely. Despite being a very popular tourist destination, they all seemed to stay up at the chateau so the town itself was fairly devoid of them. The full tour of the chateau would take up most of the day anyway so I guess there wouldn’t be much time for town walking as well.

We took the opposite view and did town walking and collected some supplies for a picnic. Just the basics, traditional baguette, cheese and raspberries to accompany the salad we had brought with us. Unfortunately I didn’t find any small bottles of wine to bring along, mais, c’est la vie. We made our way into the outer gardens of the chateau (the free parts) and had our picnic surrounded by other French families doing the same. The bread and cheese was just marvelous.

After eating we wandered into the actual gardens of the chateau. We saw the basin of Neptune and the grille du dragon (gate of the dragons). We then wandered further into the grounds towards the displays of fountains where there was supposed to be a concert of some sort. Both fortunately and unfortunately, it was just coming onto five o’clock at that point. Fortunate as we discovered that at around five access to the gardens became free and unfortunate as the concert finished at five.

The grounds were spectacular and we only saw a very small part of them. We stopped off for a coffee at one of the cafes in the gardens, then headed back to the train station. Overall a rather relaxing day.

The Sunday was a late start with nothing much to do in the morning. After lunch we took another RER train, the A line this time, off to a place called Chatou. It’s a spot about 30 minutes west of Paris and is just a quiet little suburb that used to be a town. There are some lovely French maisons there and in particular a Steiner school that Annmarie wanted to see. We again took some salad with us and bought baguettes to make a picnic lunch by the river. No cheese or wine this time though, but still it was nice. Less impressive than Versailles, but very relaxing all the same.

Thank God it’s Friday

Well, normally one would say such things after a long hard week of work. For me it’s been a mix of job seeking and sight seeing so that is probably not quite appropriate. The last couple of days have been mostly job seeking.

The bakery job sounds very interesting. It’s really more of a café kind of kitchen than a real bakery. It sounds like it would get me lots of experience for running a real kitchen of my own, but unfortunately the pay is just too low. So I may have to pass on it.

I have uncovered another interesting job possibility though. It is an administrative position for a company that transports and delivers antiques and art works for collectors. They seem to offer a full service for art and antiquities collectors. They will do custom packaging and organise delivery world wide and will even arrange hotels and limousines for deluxe shopping trips for collectors. Working with them could be really interesting as I have quite a hobby interest in antiques.

Apart from that, we went to see the Musée de l’Orangerie and saw Monet’s wonderful paintings, Les Nymphéas which I believe the Musée was originally set up to house. These are truly amazing paintings and worth the cost to go in to see. The rest of the collection is not as impressive, though the Renoirs are very good. Orsay had better paintings, but was much more crowded.

Anyway, this is just a quick check in while checking email. Tomorrow we are going to try and get to Versailles and wander around the gardens as the weather will be nice, I think.

Solemn post

The last couple of days were not so interesting except for a trip to le cimetiere du pere lachaise. For anyone who doesn’t know it, this is supposed to be one of the most famous cemeteries in the world. It has a strange collection of residents, including people like George Haussmann (the architect that designed much of the beautiful buildings and boulevards of Paris, transforming it from a mediaeval maze into the grand city it is now), Camille Pissarro (the impressionist painter whose work we saw in the Musee d’Orsay), Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison. Oscar Wilde’s grave was bizarre, it was covered in lipstick kisses.

Unfortunately they closed the cemetery to visitors just after we arrived so we only really saw Oscar Wilde and some war memorials. We also managed to walk right past Edith Piaf, oh well. The whole cemetery was stunning though. Many of the family memorials (or sepultures) were just incredible, some almost like little chapels.

We went off the day before and found a Carrefour that was over the motorway from us. This is supposed to be the ASDA or Tesco of France. They have some “hypermarchés” around that are bigger than the regular “supermarchés” you usually find. This one was just a supermarché. It was not bad, especially for us non-super kinda shoppers. We bought a few things including another kids book (this one was a kids picture book that teaches English names for common items) and a copy of the first Harry Potter in French. The copy of Harry Potter is kinda for the kids, but I though that it would also be useful for me to get a book that I knew the story and was written for a young audience. Could be good practice.

Apart from that, we’ve been mostly just doing our regular daily activities. So that’s home schooling for Annmarie and the kids and job seeking for me. I’ve got a couple of interesting possibilities at the moment.

One is in a tourist shop that is also a bureau de change. Doing bureau de change could be interesting for a while. The other is an English bakery and lunch time restaurant that does weekend brunches. They are looking for an assistant chef to help with the lunches and help make up the menus. Would be challenging to be sure, but could be interesting.

Annmarie has been musing over starting a natural/raw food kinda restaurant somewhere for a while now, so the bakery job could be an opportunity to get some commercial experience. I also have mused on getting a career in finance so the other job could be interesting too. Maybe not…

Anyway, gotta get on, make calls and get things moving.