Some final thoughts from the Jardin de Ville Friday, Jul 27 2007 

 or…

Quand tout le monde devient de plus en plus crabby…*

 

There has been a trend this week, where everyone is a little short tempered. We were talking about it as we were waiting for class today. It is the last week of the program, and everyone is getting ready to hit the road. Some people are going straight home, and I’m sure they have mixed feelings about that. Maybe some of them have been homesick and are ready to go home, and others wish they could stay a little longer (though without classes). Those of us who are doing a little or a lot of traveling after Friday are likely chomping at the bit.

 

I know I am, and while I wish I could spend more time in France, I have run out of Excedrin, and that is a sign that I need to go home soon. Oh yeah, and I am running out of money at an alarming clip. Stupid weak dollar. Stupid “International Fees.” Both are killing me – I’ve probably paid more than 20 dollars to my bank in international fees, though not so much these days, as my credit card charges tiny fees compared to my bank. Still, I’ve spent nearly all my money, and have readjusted my budget in Paris to be more frugal – instead of three nights in a single with a shower and WC, three nights in a single with a hall shower and WC; instead of budget of 50 euros a day for food, I’m now down to 25 (less if I actually want to buy things). I can do it, I have the know-how. Still, there are things I won’t cut out – all the sights are still on the itinerary (I’m buying a carte musée to save money), and I’m still going to Versailles.

 

I only have one assignment left – my oral presentation on Thursday. I haven’t really worked on it; I’m saving that for Wednesday. But after that, I think I’m more or less done in all my classes.

 

It is weird to think about leaving. You get used to a place in a very short time, and I really feel like I’ve lived here, as opposed to just staying here. Sure, it is true that I haven’t explored the whole city, but I think you can say that about the city in which you have lived for 6 years, not just 6 weeks. Some of the others say it will be weird to go back, but they haven’t kicked around as much as I have; what will be weird for me is how easily it will be to slip into my old life, which has been waiting for me at home. Even the cat will forgive me for my treachery within a week.

 

Since I feel like it, I will finish this post with two lists: things about France I will miss, and things I will not.

 

Things I will miss about France:

 

French cheeses

Wine with dinner

Jaunting off to Provence

Jaunting off to the mountains

Public transportation that runs every 10 minutes

Crepes!

Galettes!

Mme W

Place de (insert place name here)

The fountains in Place de (insert place name here)

Patisseries

M. La Poste

 

 

Things I will not miss about France:

 

The crappy exchange rate

That almost everything is more expensive (6 Euro floss!)

Aggressive panhandlers (they make the ones in the US look like cream puffs)

The chronic smoking of the French

Piles of dog crap (picking up after your dog has not caught on here)

The cleanliness standards of public restrooms

 

Hey! The things I miss list is longer, so that must mean that I’m having a good time. Oh wait, I already said that I was.

 

Next post: hilarious signs I have seen.

 

*When everyone is getting crabbier

Bouillabaisse! or, The Salty Tales of Marseilles Sunday, Jul 22 2007 

** You’ll note that it looks like I’ve been on a posting binge – but it is really Friday’s, Saturday’s and Sunday’s posts, all put up on the same day.

Today is Dimanche, when most of France is closed, although I have high hopes for getting things done and hitting a few museums, yet (which are open). I am, however, still wiped out from yesterday’s journey to Marseilles (with pit stop in Aix-en-Provence), and being conscious is a victory right now.

 

Marseilles was probably my favorite group excursion of this summer. We only did three activities, were constantly rushed for time, and got back at 3:00 am, but what we did do was so enjoyable, that I think that it wins.

 

After a pit stop in a small town in Provence (Séguret) for a café/WC stop, we were on to Marseilles. It is roughly 3 1/2 – 4 hours from Grenoble, so we all spent a fair amount of time napping, listening to iPods and, in the case of some ambitious people, homework (not me). We hit Marseilles at a little after noon, then plan being everybody find some lunch, meet back for the ferry to the Chateau d’If in an hour. E and C and I looked around for a place that wasn’t too expensive. After wandering around for about 15 minutes, we found a place that fit the bill; C learned the lesson I learned in Arles – all provencal food contains olives, and like me, she doesn’t care for olives either. But it was all good, except for the fact that the line for the WC was such that one had to hope that there were WCs at the Chateau (there were, so no injuries from exploding bladders). The ferry ride was great, and C and I agreed that boat ownership was going to be a necessity in the future (you may remember that many of my grad school options are on the West Coast? Coincidence? Mais, non!). The fact that we spent practically all of our day by the shore made the weather perfect. Yes it was hot, but a continual sea breeze kept us from feeling it too much. We toured the Chateau, and most of the group decided for a prison, some of the cells weren’t to bad. Some of them had fireplaces and ocean views (if you don’t mind the bars), and I’ve seen studio apartments that were smaller, for sure. I took many pictures, and nearly had a panic attack when I though there was a scratch on my zoom lens. Turns out that there is something on the shutter mirror that, while annoying, will not affect picture quality. Another boat ride, with a drunken French bachelorette party (which apparently is a universal – we saw another one later that afternoon). Then on to Notre Dame de la Garde, which is beautiful, though the view from the cathedral would have been worth the trip. Then on to the beach, which was logistically difficult, as we were a large group trying to ride public transportation, but we got there, albeit a little late. Even though it is a public beach and an international tourist attraction, apparently there are no changing rooms, so the women circled the wagons, and with the use of strategically placed towels, changed into our swimsuits without putting on a show. And although I am still opposed to my appearing in a swimsuit, it was completely worth it. I had forgotten that salt water makes you incredibly buoyant, and had difficulty keeping my feet from popping out of the water as I swam, so I mostly bobbed, which felt great. What didn’t feel great was getting salt water in my eyes and (occasionally up my nose), but it was a small price to pay for capping off a day of sightseeing with a relaxing dip in the Mediterranean. After opting to just throw on my new coverup (which looks like a loose-fitting dress anyway) and not change back into my clothes, I gathered up my stuff, and E and C and I thought we’d hit the supermarket and buy some fixings for a picnic dinner in Aix.

 

However, the giant lines at the Géant Casino were not in our favor, so we had to settle for spending more money and eating at a restaurant once we got to Aix.

 

Why we still went on to Aix is a mystery to me. The original plan made some sense, as we were going to spend a couple of hours there (at least part of them while it was still light out). Instead, we spent one hour, in the dark, with the express purpose of grabbing something to eat. After a jaunt to the ATM, officially dipping into my Paris fund, we lit on a place that was reasonable and ate dinner. Then it was back on the bus for the trip back to Grenoble and as much sleep as we could muster.

 

At 2:45, we got back into Grenoble, and we started walking back. A couple of the group offered to walk with me back to my place, since they were two and going to the same place. After a false start, where we made an inadvertent loop, we got to my place, where one of the gang needed to use the facilities to make home alive. I thanked them for their generosity, and they went off into the very early morning.

 

I had been talking tough about taking a shower when I got home, but I was simply too tired. I put on my jammies, and fell into bed, where I stayed awake for another half an hour, too tired to fall directly asleep.

 

This morning, since it was still morning when I woke up, I puttered some, and did laundry, officially leaving me with enough underwear to last until I finally get home. I was pretty impressed with myself. I have two goals today (other than working on some homework) – hit some of the museums, and try out the free Wi-Fi that is supposed to be available in certain locations in town. If it works…well, you’ll know, since I will be posting this on Sunday and not Monday.

Merde! (Part Deux) Sunday, Jul 22 2007 

 Once again, a combination of laziness and bad timing thwarted my ambition to do something new. I took a nap when I finished classes (laziness) and the long awaited orages (storms) came, rendering all outdoor activities inadvisable. Instead, I hit the centre-ville and the soldes. I had a longing for a semi-fancy top I had seen at the Galleries Lafayette, but it was sold out. Today, I thought I might try the store for the semi-fancy label to see if they still had the top. They didn’t have it in the color I wanted, but they did have the size in a different color. So I tried it on. Unfortunately, I was wearing a bra for comfort, not for style. So I looked a little frumpy and couldn’t judge if a bra that is flattering would make the top work. So I left it. Then, for kicks, I went back to the Galleries Lafayette. I saw that they had a section of bargain swimwear, so I browsed. In my universe, buying swimwear is, to me, only slightly better than having my eyes gouged out with a grapefruit spoon. But it is supposed to be broiling in Marseilles tomorrow, and we do have a swimming trip. After a morning/afternoon of sightseeing, a dip in the Mediterranean seems both refreshing and obligatory. And 10 Euros seemed like something I would be willing to spend. I found two swimsuits that I didn’t detest in my size – one pink and one aqua. The pink one was cuter, but the pink was difficult to match (for coverup purposes), and I feared that I also might show too much cleavage. The blue one was basic, but I thought it might be less flattering and more frumpy. Still, coverage is key, and the blue had that contest won. I found something inexpensive to wear as a coverup, and went with the blue suit, which I have been regretting (and unfortunately, it is too late to change). It isn’t that the blue suit sucks, it’s that I hate wearing a swimsuit. It isn’t just that I have the pastiest legs possible without having a medical condition. It isn’t just that I am a known klutz and bump into everything, leaving many bruises on my pasty legs. And it isn’t even that I am awash in cellulite. It is the combination of pastiness, bruises and cellulite. But I bought the damn suit because I know I’ll stare longingly at the sea while everyone else goes swimming. But appearing in public in the suit is something that makes me queasy. And I guess that because the pink suit was trendier (without being skimpier, save the top part), I would feel less frumpy. But the pink suit was a cotton blend and I went for the more practical suit. And so I’ve made my choice. The benefit of the blue suit is that it is so nondescript, it will be almost like wearing camouflage.

 

As you can imagine, the dowdy bra and the horror of seeing myself in a swimsuit has made my mood as bleak as the sky right now. Hopefully, I will just let it go, because while it is understandable, it really is too small a thing to ruin a trip to Marseilles. I better be sweating buckets tomorrow, to make the swimming excursion worth it.

Merde! Sunday, Jul 22 2007 

 Here I am, in the final week and a half of my sojourn here in France. On the one hand, I am having a great time, and there is a lot more I want to do. On the other hand, I miss my friends (hey peeps!), my family, my cat and my bank balance. Plus, I am so sick of classes right now I could puke.

 

For example, right now I could be writing my essay on Michelet right now. I have started it, and it is due tomorrow. I also realized that I have another essay and an oral presentation in that class, due next week. And that doesn’t count the writing class…

 

Fortunately, I have lucked into the grammar class with the least amount of homework. It isn’t a function of level (it turns out that I am not in the lowest level of everyone in our group, and that there are some people in the advanced level – of course, it doesn’t affect course credit back in Wisconsin, but I still care), just the preference of the professor. For that, I am grateful. The writing class, which started Monday, is taught by a woman who, to look at her, appears to be the meanest woman in all of France, but that’s just appearances. She’s actually very cool, though no pushover by any means. I think I’m going to get a lot out of the class, which is good, since I did want to take the second literature class, as the professor is freakin’ awesome, and the material is fascinating (and minimal homework too boot). But I knew the writing class would be more practical in the long run. Occasionally, we do wacky writing activities, such as write a story using only words that begin with the letter “S” (with the exception of function words and pronouns) or write something about “meeting” involving France, culture and love. But it is usually structuring an argumentative essay or the like. I’m good at those in English, but the structure is different, and I’m improving my vocabulary of transition words. Which is good, because I use “cependant” and “bien que” an average of 54 times in every paper I write for a French class.

 

So, with the level of work I have been doing for class, my dream of doing something different each day has been scaled back, and today I had to say, “not today.” But yes, I have time to write. I will get back to Michelet, but quite frankly, the class gives me a pain these days, and I lack motivation.

 

I’m also participating in a linguistics study involving French vowels, which gives me a nerdy, giddy rush. I told the woman running the study that I’m studying French and Linguistics and after I finish participating, she’s going to talk to me and show me what she’s doing. All the better to suck up fall semester back home in Phonetics and Phonology class.

 

Alas, I must finish this, as Michelet will no longer wait for me. He will rise from the dead, and blather on about the French Revolution until I drop dead from exhaustion. It is a sad day when I dislike a French class so much. All well, the session is almost over, and I’m off to Paris for a few days, playing the tourist.

 

But first, homework. And before Paris, I’m off to Marseilles (this Saturday).

The Adventures of the Lizard Woman of Grenoble Thursday, Jul 19 2007 

The ungodly heat they warned us about is here, and I am fairly certain I have lost half my body weight in sweat today (sadly, the part that is fat still remains).  I am waiting for a correction of a paper (a subject I do not wish to describe, as it is a lengthy tirade about the structure of a class here).  I started a writing class on Monday, though it is quite a lot of work, I am learning a ton, so it is worthwhile.  However, that is not the class to which I am referrring.  Ah well, laisse tomber….

I am calling myself the lizard woman of Grenoble because the sunburn I got on my chest 2 weeks ago is peeling, so I believe I may be molting.  I feel completely disgusting with the peeling and the sweating and the cramps (yes, that’s right, cramps too); when I dropped my pencil in class today, “merde” was the logical response.

I have more to say, but it will have to wait until after I replace some fluids.  Comment dit-on Gatorade, anyway?  Bleah, I am disgusting – it’s a good thing I never see the World’s Most Gorgeous Mailman these days.

The Only Old Lady Monday, Jul 16 2007 

 Saturday was the 14th (Bastille Day, though I already mentioned that the French don’t call it that), and I went on an excursion to Lyon. There were two things on my list for Lyon: eat some of the famous cuisine, and visit the Institut Lumière, devoted to the creators of motion pictures (in your face, Edison). They did all of their inventing in Lyon, and a lot of their filming, so the city is justifiably proud. I also had plans to meet up with E and C after I got back for some firework watching (feu d’artifice) and for the dance that each city hosts outdoors.

 

After getting to Lyon, we set up the group rendezvous by the statue of Saint-Exupéry (another of Lyon’s favorite sons) and his most beloved creations, Le Petit Prince. Of course, I took a picture. We saw some of the by now obligatory things you see in France – a gothic cathedral, a pimped-out 19th century cathedral, and some Roman ruins. All were very interesting. Then it was off to lunch (wherever we wanted), and those that wanted to go to the Parc de Tête d’Or would meet up at 2:00. I toyed with the idea of going to the park and hitting the Institut later, but I suspected that wouldn’t work out as well. So, I opted to take my time at lunch and wing it from there. I wandered around, looking at restaurants, checking out the posted menus, trying to find a tasty lunch and a good deal. I had read about a sort of famous restaurant owned by one of Lyon’s top chefs, but since it wasn’t his main restaurant, it was a (relative bargain). However, I had no address. I found a bouchon on a little side street that was hopping (a mix of tourists and locals, which I took to be a good sign), that wasn’t too expensive. I sat down, and after deciding that the traditional Lyonnais cuisine was way too heavy for the (hot) weather (summer has finally come to the Alps), I opted for a salad; actually, a saladier, which was described to me as “more big.” In France, I have found that the French Waiter generally likes me, because I speak French, don’t order Coke with dinner, and I choose well. The waiter was very nice, but my tiny annoyance is that, detecting my accented French, the people in the service industry will answer in English (not assuming nationality, more of a reflection on English’s international standing). I know that they are trying to a) be accommodating and b) practice their English skills, which are considered to be an asset, just like speaking Spanish is a plus in the US (the exception being if you are Hispanic, then you are supposed to never speak Spanish again, apparently). The thing is, good intentions aside, the majority of the time, my French is better than their English, and for example, if the waiter had said, “Les saladiers sont plus grands,” I would have understood. I understand “more big” too, but I speak English all the time at home (and increasingly, unfortunately, here in France as well). But the spirit in which English was offered was a generous spirit (as it usually is), and I understand the impulse, so I can’t take umbrage at it. The tangent was lengthy, but the saladier was indeed, “more big” and delicious too, with locally made blue cheese melted on little toasts with baked apples. Though my love for French cheese is deep and profound, I have had a hankering lately for some Cheddar (or, as Mme W calls it, “sheddaire,” which she discovered traveling in England, but noted sadly, is difficult to find in France – most likely the only cheese that is difficult to find in France. Other than Kraft Singles. Or Velveeta. But those aren’t really cheeses, per se). I found my way to the Cathedral St Jean, which we had seen before, but it had been closed earlier (jour ferié). It was open, and I toured it, and saw the mechanical astronomical clock strike two and do its little dance.

 

Then, I wandered around for a little less than an hour, finding my way to the metro station which would take me to the Institut (yes, I know that sounds comical). On the way, I saw a hilarious store front – “Discount Mariage” – selling inexpensive bridal apparel. If they started a chain in the States, the name would sink them for sure. I took the metro to the Institut (still funny), and could have spent all day there. I also could have, if I were a millionaire, bought everything in the gift shop. I settled for a t-shirt and two small undisclosed souvenirs – one for my brother, and one for my “turncoat” collaborator KS(-P) – emphasis on the word small, though. I headed back to the meeting place, to see if I could catch up with anyone from the group, but I had missed them. I had a half-baked idea to catch the Silk Museum, but, I couldn’t find it, which I found pretty ironic, considering that I figured out the public transportation system well enough to take the subway to a non-touristed part of town to check out a museum, but couldn’t find a museum in a small area loaded with tourist attractions. It’s just as well, since I lated discovered that the museum was closed, being a national holiday and all. I wandered around, discovering little parks, complete with fountains and statues to various Lyonnais or abstract ideas such as liberty. I also, and this is why I was disappointed I didn’t find any other members of the group, kept getting approached by skeevy/drunk/zealot-y Frenchmen. It’s never the normal ones, is it? So I used one of two strategies: pretending I don’t see them, or pretending I don’t speak French. But you have to be careful, because if you use the wrong technique it eggs them on (i.e. drunks, finding out you’re a foreigner will never let you alone; if you ignore them, zealots will keep trying to get your attention). As I was walking around, I caught sight of the restaurant I had read about in the guidebook. It figures.

 

All in all, Lyon was a good day, but I was in desperate need of both a meal and a shower when I got back. I rushed to do both, so I could meet E and go watch the fireworks. Alas, I was nearly 10 minutes late, and they had left without me, not knowing my natural state of being 10 minutes late for most things. I thought about trying to catch up with them for the fireworks, but since everyone was going to be out and about, I thought it would be difficult to find them in a crowd. And I didn’t want to wander around, looking desperately for anyone I know. And I wouldn’t go to the fireworks by myself at home, so you can imagine that I would be less likely to in a foreign country. I’m fine with doing stuff by myself in the daytime, but I’m a little less likely to do so at night. I figure it’s common sense.

 

This is a good example of the downside to being the Only Old Lady. I don’t really want to pretend I’m 19, and I’m not any one’s first choice to do something with, even though the rest of the group doesn’t treat me like I’m a pariah or anything. I’m always on the edge of the group, and while it doesn’t really bother me; it does make doing certain things, like going to a late-evening event problematic.

 

So, I went back to the apartment and thought about if I really wanted to go out. It turns out I didn’t, not by myself. It isn’t very fun. I thought I might get a little depressed, since it is kind of a big deal to be in France for the 14th, but it turned out I was too tired, and was out like a light by 11:30 (when most of the things hadn’t even started anyway).

 

Sunday, I woke up, puttered around, did a little laundry. I idly thought that maybe I should get out and do something; I’ve been pretty lax about exploring Grenoble, assuming I had all this time to do so. Now here we are in the final two weeks, and I have a day with no excursions, no real homework. I thought maybe I could go up to the Bastille, the 16th century fort built on a mountain. But I started out pretty lazy. Then I got a little maudlin, thinking about the Ex and if he had started seeing someone new. This, as you can well imagine, was both depressing and pointless. I have discovered that there is only one cure for emotional distress and that is physical distress, so I packed my camera, put on my ankle brace, and headed off to the path to the Bastille.

 

There is another way up the Bastille that involves a lot less physical exertion. I could ride the téléferique up to the fort. Grenoble is famous for the téléferique. But I find the damn thing horrifying in the extreme. If I can’t stand on a chair to change a light bulb without breaking into a cold sweat, I don’t think getting into a tiny glass bubble suspended from a cable is going to be high on my list of activities. Plus it costs 3.25 Euros, and the exchange rate is dismal these days. So abject terror beat out laziness, and I hoiked my lazy American ass up the mountain (and it is a mountain, a genuine Alp, albeit one of the little ones). At first, it wasn’t so bad, it was shady and woody. Then after some steps that were probably designed by Torquemada, I took a breather. Then I saw there was another flight of stairs. I stopped to look at the scenery.

 

“That’s not the path up the mountain, you know,” middle aged man says to me.*

“Yes, I know,” and make a show out of taking out my camera, as if to prove to strangers that I am not taking a break because I’m already dead-ass tired.

 

After a breather, I go up more steep, creepy stairs.

 

And go up some steep turning paths.

 

Then there were some more steep, creepy stairs.

 

There was one point, where I was hiking up with some middle-aged French women. We make it up a long, steep and yes, creepy staircase, only to reach…another long, steep and creepy staircase.

 

“Oh, I forgot about this one,”* she says to her friend.

“Do you still want to go up?” The friend asks.

“I suppose so, we’ve already come this far. Let’s rest a bit though.”

 

The three of us climb the stairs and are about to tackle the next flight, when a chubby shirtless man (actually, unless I say otherwise, all people are French) announces to us that the other path is easier.

 

So we go up the other path, which has fewer steps, but were evidently designed by a giant.

 

“This is easier?” One woman says to the other.

 

We eventually parted ways, as there are a couple of different paths up to the fort, all of them requiring exertion. A couple of times, I nearly gave up, as I was pretty high anyway, and took some cool photos. I even saw Mont Blanc. But the lying signs on the pathway kept telling me I was almost there, so I plugged along. And I got to the top. Well, not to the top of the mountain per se, but to my destination. And discovered that the snack shop and the vending machines were charging gougers’ prices, knowing that hikers that had left their bottles of water back at their apartments and were too lazy to go back and get them, would be desperate. Not me, I will risk dehydration to avoid paying 2.50 (in Euros, yet) for a bottle of the cool, refreshing beverage of my choice.

 

I saw a neat little art exhibit up there. The woman was very nice, and misunderstood that I couldn’t understand her, not because she was speaking French, but because she was very soft-spoken, and the acoustics of the tower were not in her favor. So I let her explain things to me in English (which again, probably not as good as my French), which I understood about as well, since I could barely hear her. But the art was neat.

 

I could have climbed up further, to the donjon up at the summit, but I said, “Fuck that,” and descended, which was a lot easier.

 

I was thirsty, and France is more or less closed on Sundays. My choice would have been to go to a grocery store and bought a bottle of something (I was seized by a sudden desire for Diet Coke, aka Coca Cola Light**). But that is not an option on Sundays. I wandered to the centre-ville and happened on the McDonalds (McDo to the French). Normally, my position is “I’m in France, I’m not going to patronize McDonalds,” which I hardly go to at home, anyway. But the idea of a Boisson Frais had overcome me, and I had to obey. So I ordered a medium (since the large would have been the same price as if I had gotten one at the Bastille, and I hate a Pyhrric victory), which I sucked down with a ferocity that surprised me. I ate the ice, too. Then it was back to le ranch, where I sucked down a bottle of water (tap, bien sûr) and a much deserved shower.

 

I don’t know if I’m going to hike up to the Bastille again, but you can be damn sure I’m not going on the téléferique, I don’t care if it is a symbol of Grenoble. I do think it is typical of me not to have done it when it was chilly, but to wait until it was 31 degrees Celsius. I can’t remember what the exact conversion is, but I know it’s hot.

 

My goal for the last 12 days (yikes! 12 days left in Grenoble!) is to do something new each day.

 

*All conversations, with the exception of the art exhibit, which was often bilingual, were in French.

** I can’t be sure, but I believe that Coca-Cola Light and Diet Coke are different formulas. Coca-Cola Light tastes different to me, but I am willing to concede that since I have had only two Coca-Cola Lights since I’ve been in France, maybe the month without any diet cola has rendered my memory inaccurate.

The National Symbol on the Street Saturday, Jul 14 2007 

After classes today, it was off to Vizille and the National Museum of the Revolution, apropos as tomorrow is the 14th, which is the National Holiday (the French don’t call it Bastille Day).  Forgoing my now customary mid-afternoon nap, I was enlightened by such things as Propaganda Porcelaine* and the hall of Morbid Paintings** after which we hung out at a lake, followed by a visit to a big-ass statue of Napoleon.  I kid, but it was a nice excursion.  Tomorrow, I spend the day in Lyon, followed by a (what I’m sure will be terrifying) ride on the teleferique up to watch the fireworks and a ride down the teleferique to the Ball in the Place St Andre.  I hear it is quite a shindig.

Until then, and hopefully, I will be composing the next entry on my own computer, which has its keys exactly where I left them.

* Not its real name
** Again, my own creation

Indulging in a little negative thinking Thursday, Jul 12 2007 

You know, I really shouldn’t complain (even as I hunt and peck on a French keyboard). That said, I had a wish today in one of my classes, and it wasn’t part of my normal load.

I wanted to crush someone.

And while I could defend myself with a laundry list of reasons and rationalizations, the fact is that it wasn’t the best part of my character, the part that I try each day to cultivate. It was the small, petty part of me that likes to exact revenge for inflicting their personality problems into my world; to exact revenge by doing the one thing that I know will piss them off. And while in this case, that would be simply getting the best grade in the class, something that would benefit me more than the revenge, the impulse troubled me. I like to think that I’m more evolved than that. But apparently, I’m not.

Another thing: I’m not sure if my French has improved, but my franglais is excellent.

Tonight, a concert with E and tomorrow a trip to a chateau and le 14 in Lyon.

Il Fait Froid Tuesday, Jul 10 2007 

 Oh, So Tired…

Saturday was the trip to Avignon, which was great, but very, very tiring. We left at 7:00 am (correction: we needed to be there by 7:00 am, but we did not leave until 7:45) and got back at 1:00 am. So yes, a long day. We started off with a stop in Orange to see the Roman theatre, which is damn impressive, still standing and looking good for its 2000 years. Lunch at a café, then back on the bus to hit Avignon and the Palais des Papes, which was less elaborate than I thought, but really cool nevertheless. July is the month-long Avignon Theatre Festival, which spills into the streets. Sure, there are traditional plays, put on in traditional theaters; but there are street performers, guerilla theater events, and even the people involved in the more traditional productions pound the pavement, in costume, handing out flyers to advertise their shows.

 

After a few hours in Avignon, it was on to Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct and public beach. Those who brought their maillots de bain could go swimming, and those (like myself) who did not could wade, or hang out in the shade or hike. I have not appeared in public in a maillot de bain for a long time, though I did wish at the time that I did bring one, as it was damn hot. After our sojourn with nature, it was back on the bus, back to Avignon, to enjoy some of the theatre festival. We walked around a bit, but the crowds were insane, so we picked a spot and sat down. We chose well, because after 10 or 15 minutes, just when we were wondering if we were really going to sit there for another hour, a street performer set up right in front of where we were sitting. His was probably the best act we saw on the street. He performed for about 45 minutes, and his act had a definite Charlie Chaplin, Harpo Marx, silent clown influence. It turned out that he was Spanish, and didn’t speak a lot of French, but he made it work for him, with a melange of French, English, Spanish and a patois of his own creation. It was impressive, and if I hadn’t been cash-free at that point (mayhaps I purchased some petits cadeaux pour mes amis?), I would have made a contribution to the hat. I also saw something very cool, which I am not going to post as of yet. I want to recount the story, in person, to Puppy Mama, KS(-P) and Bad Influence, as they will appreciate greatly. Plus, I have visual aids.

 

But all the theatrical goings-on made me miss the gang back home. The Blitz is next weekend, and it is always a hoot and a holler. KS(-P) and I will not be writing as a team this year (sniff), and she’s already gone and found a new collaborator (sniff). However, don’t cry for me Blogosphere, because I am in France, and I suppose that’s cool too.

 

After a couple of hours in Avignon, we left for Grenoble. At 2 minutes before 1, we get off the bus. I walk over to the tram stop and the board indicates that I missed the last tram by 2 minutes. Disappointed, but not surprised, I start to walk off in the direction of chez moi with some others. It isn’t a long walk, but at 1:00 am, I would prefer to ride the tram. Then I hear the tram approaching. I holler an obscenity (in English) and haul ass back to the tram stop. Fortunately, I make it, and get to ride instead of walk. As dead-ass tired as I am when I get home, the disgusting film (which I know contains sweat and sunscreen, but I shudder to think what else) coating me is too much, and I take a shower. Then I sleep the sleep of the dead.

 

Then on to Chartreuse the next day.

 

The Chartreuse trip was only a half day, but to those of us still exhausted from Avignon, it was a long half day. The weather was kind of crappy for an outdoor excursion, but what can you do? We went up into the mountains, saw a church (very striking), saw a museum about the Chartreux monks (very interesting) and hiked up the mountain (very exhausting). I took many photos. Then came the part that most people were waiting for: the visit to the Chartreuse distillery, along with free degustation. The folks at the distillery showed a couple of short movies (one in 3-D!), which were freakin’ hilarious, a brief tour, and then the tasting. I knew that Chartreuse has a distinctive taste, and that a lot of the people in the group, who are used to drinks that don’t taste like drinks, weren’t going to like it. But I had no idea that they had all these fruity liqueurs, so those people were covered too. I’m a purist at heart, so I tried the Chartreuse Verte. If herbal tea packed a wallop, that’s what Chartreuse Verte tastes like. Of course, the tasting room is adjacent to the gift shop. I picked up some of the supercharged vert “Elixir” for my brother, and the tisane (herbal tea bags) made by the monks for myself. Since I will have to tote anything and everything I buy home with me, I assume I will wait until I am back in America before I buy my own Chartreuse (sure it will be more expensive, but since I have had the French experience, and I can remember how heavy my luggage was before I came to France, I figure the extra cost is worth it). And then, this winter, I will try a Green Chaud – Chartreuse and hot chocolate. Hey, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it, right?

 

But back to the “real world” (the French real world, at any rate) of classes and such.

As for today’s title – I stuck my arm out the window, as I do every day to check the weather (Who needs météo when you have arms?).  Freaking cold.  We’ve been complaining about the weather here lately, but no lie, I bet it didn’t even make it to 60 today (and I ain’t talkin’ Celsius).  Oh, and there’s snow covering the Belladonne range of the Alps today, as I noticed with shock and horror from the bathroom window this morning.  But hey, I have a view of the Alps from my bathroom window, so life can’t be all bad, can it?

But seriously, we were told that it gets really hot here, so I packed one hoodie and one pair of pants, which I have been wearing every damn day (except for Saturday) for the past week and a half, or so it seems.  I hear by Bastille Day, however, things will be warm.  Actually, I hear next week will be stifling, but I trust French meteorologists as much as I trust their American counterparts:  that is to say, not at all.

Le petit somme Saturday, Jul 7 2007 

Thursday, after I posted, I left the internet café and waited for the tram.  I half-heartedly window-shopped (J’ai tièdement fait du lèche-vitrines), and caught the tram back to the apartment.  Even though the vending machine spat out a bonus Kit Kat bar when I bought a bottle of water, I was hungry when I got home; knowing that dinner tends to be around 9:00, I felt a snack was in order.  I puttered around a bit, put away my laundry, took a shower and had a cup of tea.  Then I took a two-hour nap.  I had no idea I was so tired.  Feeling guilty after the nap, I started working on some things that are not due until early next week, but since I will be spending all day Saturday in Avignon and half the day in Chatreuse on Sunday, I suspected that I would not have beaucoup de temps  for homework.  When Mme W came home, she told me that I always seemed to be working.  While I put more effort into the homework than everybody else (as I am a huge school nerd), the blog updates and the luxurious naps indicate something else entirely.  But I kept that to myself.

And then another 2-hour French dinner.

I’ve noticed by the second hour of dinner, my French is decidedly less careful.  I doubt it’s the wine, as I have two (okay, maybe three) glasses at dinner, and I’m never tipsy.  Tired, but never tipsy.  I think my brain gets fatigued.  Like now:  I’m not using my portable (laptop), but a computer with a French keyboard, and it’s taking me forever.  So I’ll pause here and update y’all when I get back from Avignon, though it may be after I get back from Chartreuse. 

Where in the hell do they hide the “m” on this crazy thing?

Next Page »