Gee, I’m looking forward to the future…. Friday, Aug 31 2007 

This week has, simultaneously, been both glacially paced and over before I know it.  I have problems with “holding patterns,” those times where you have little to do but sit and wait for the main event.  Personally, I find it useless to wait for life to begin, but right now there is little to do (other than work) until classes start on Tuesday.  Until then, I’m just marking time.

With the demise of “Lappy,” I have been unable to engage in my favorite forward-looking activity:  going to the websites of my possible grad schools.  I check out the course catalogues, recheck the list of application materials, and try to formulate the recommendation pitches I plan to make to unsuspecting faculty members.  I bought a new calendar for the academic year, and I’ve already put in the deadline dates.

As for the dorky title, it is from an even dorkier song that I learned in the 5th grade.  Yes, it is demented that I remember even part of the song, but what can you do?  Why I remember bits of this useless song, but had to relearn high school algebra for the GRE is a mystery.  As I remember, the song was very earnest, but looking at the title, it positively reeks with sarcasm.  Or maybe I reek of sarcasm as my natural state.  That’s pretty believable.

Unfinished Business? Thursday, Aug 30 2007 

I’ve been getting a little nostalgic lately.  The start of the academic year seems to do that to me.  In general, I’m not a particularly sentimental person; I don’t glorify “the good old days.”  Things happened:  some of them are pleasant memories, some of them are not; I could say the same for my life in the present.

Once you become nostalgic, things that happen in your everyday life add to the sensation.  This can be dangerous.  Left unchecked, you start making odd fashion choices (mullet, anyone?), calling old boyfriends…it’s a slippery slope.

I have acquired a harmless little work crush.  In fact, “crush” is probably too strong a word.  I just happen to work with a nice young man who is easy on the eyes.  C’est tout.  However, as I poked long dormant thoughts with the stick of nostalgia, I realized that my harmless little work crush bears a resemblance to an old friend from my days as the Junior Junior.  I started thinking to myself, “I wonder what High School Homecoming King (so called because he struck me as the stereotypical BMOC, but he was a good egg anyway) is up to.”  We flirted a good deal back in the day, but it never went anywhere, probably because we were good friends and neither of us wanted to screw that up with a 2 month hook up, which was the modus operandi for both of us back then.  So here I am, …er…several years later, thinking I should google the guy, you know, just for kicks.  Because, you know, what would it hurt?

In case you’re curious, I did google High School Homecoming King.  I have not e-mailed him for many reasons, one of them being that during the act of googling, I realized that it was not the best idea I had ever had.

So I managed to save me from myself.  This time, anyway.  My life has become fraught with terrible choices, just lurking in the background, waiting for me to feel a little down.  That’s what nostalgia can do.  It isn’t just Laverne and Shirley lunchboxes.

I mean really.  Googling some guy I haven’t seen in 10 years.

The Luddite World Tuesday, Aug 28 2007 

Okay, I exaggerate, but since the demise of Laptop, I have found it difficult to keep up with the blog.  The Ex might be able to give me an old (but still functioning) laptop that will see me through until the end of the year (fingers crossed); otherwise, I’ll have to make do with the computer labs.  That would mean that scribbling down my thoughts would be a much lower priority than it used to be.

 Ah well, here’s hoping.  I’ll keep posting when I can.

Welcome to the Working Week Saturday, Aug 11 2007 

The party’s over…

On Monday, I started working.  That in itself is not bad or anything; as long as everyone requires money in exchange for goods and/or services, I’ve got to work.  On Thursday, I started my 2nd job.  I haven’t worked into my groove yet, but eventually, I should be working roughly 20 – 25 hours a week at both jobs until school starts.  Then I cut back to 15-16 hours a week for each job.  It is going to be a grind, working 7 days a week for the near future, but it isn’t like I have anything else to do (at least until school starts, but after school and work, I won’t really have anything else to do – which is good, as I won’t have the time).  I get my financial aid at the end of the month, but after tuition, books and health insurance (I’m too old to hope “nothing will happen to me”), I don’t have really anything left for: food, bills, rent.  So one job will pay for the necessities, and as for the other, any extra money (and I anticipate that there will be extra money) goes to such frivolities as:  a new laptop to replace the late, lamented “Lappy,” grad school application fees, and my “picking up and moving to a completely different city to start graduate school fund.”  Although it is true, I have a big frivolity planned in January – Puppy Mama, KS(-P), Bad Influence and I have been talking tough about an excursion to Vegas.  We’re not big gamblers, but after the obligatory pass at a real game (none of that slot shit), then it will be time to hit all the Vegas-y spots and just generally get silly.  Of course, these days when we finally get together to go out, we’re all wiped out before midnight.  We may want to train. 

As tedious as working 7 days a week (some of them scrubbing toilets and the like) is, it is more palatable having a goal in mind.  Just busting ass to keep body and soul together is draining – I know, I’ve had to do it myself.  Which reminds me of a headline in The Onion from this week – “Minimum Wage Hike Celebrated with Name Brand Ketchup.”  It was both funny and true; though I have not worked for minimum wage in quite some time, I can tell you that it takes a lot more than minimum wage to make you not poor.  Sure, I got to spend the summer in France, but I had to take out some hefty loans to do so.  Plus, I emptied out my checking account, and now things like coffee or cheese are beyond my means, and until the paychecks start reflecting the amount of time I work, they will need to remain luxurious dreams.

But someday, after I pay off my student loans, and I have tenure…ah, I will buy cheese and coffee, and deodorant…and cotton balls…and I will still have money left over.  Ah, how sweet that will be.

R.I.P., Laptop Wednesday, Aug 8 2007 

My laptop crapped out on me Sunday.  I have a call in to my Tech Guy (aka, the Ex), but I don’t think “lappy” is going to pull through.  It wasn’t just the blue screen, the phrase “performing memory dump” or the fact that, in mid-panic, I accidentally dropped a camera on my keyboard, popping the “Z” key free.  All that is scary enough.  But now, when I turn the dang thing on, it claims it can’t boot – there is no hard drive.  I have only a passing knowledge of computer workings, but I’m guessing that can’t be good.

The laptop made the trip with me to France, so maybe it got all jet-lagged too, making it susceptible to terrible maladies (and again, the fact that I dropped something on it could not have helped).  It is just a thing, a machine, but its demise comes at a terrible time.  After paying my bills and digging myself out of France-related debt (and renewing my health insurance), I have nowhere near the amount necessary to buy a new laptop.  I had one budgeted in for spring – a tricked out, high performance number that would be able to take me through my PhD (at which time, it will be hopelessly out of date, I’m sure).

I can muddle through without one (using only my obsolete desktop, and whatever time I can scrap up in computer labs on campus), but all things being equal, I’d rather have something (even if it is a sickly “lappy”, limping through the rest of the school year).

Being laptop free has also made it difficult to post, as you can well imagine.  Here’s what you’ve missed:

I am starting to get a little melancholy, as I am back to my old, unexciting life.
I am still, unfortunately, carrying a torch for my Ex, which sucks for me.
I will start my hotel housekeeping job tomorrow.

Not much, I know.

Finding my clock Friday, Aug 3 2007 

Tuesday was an exhausting day of traveling,  starting with the stairs.  Old hotels are charming, until you have to hoik one suitcase; a weekend bag, loaded with books, and a backpack down four flights of a spiral staircase.  Also, down the steps of the Métro station, back up the flights of a Métro station when told there wasn’t a caisse to take my credit card.  I was directed to the next station down the line, where I finally bought my ticket to the airport.  Then I lugged my luggage through the Métro station (again), and once more when I had had to change trains.  A few Frenchpeople helped me with my luggage, for which I am grateful (and because of which, I am slightly less bruised).  I checked in, and finally unloaded my luggage and felt free, free, dammit!

The flight itself was pretty uneventful.  I spoke franglais with a group of three Frenchpeople going to San Francisco.  I also watched three movies (it was a long flight), including Blades of Glory, which caused me to laugh out loud on the plane.

I had to through customs before my flight to Chicago, which wasn’t too bad, although I forgot to take my laptop out of my bag, and had to go through the security twice.   All in all, by the time I got home, I had been up for 24 hours.

As you may have noted from yesterday’s posts, I am back and trying to get on Central Daylight Time.  Last night, I went to bed at about 6:30 pm (about 1:30 France time), and woke up at 2:19 am.  This was not going to help, so I took a melatonin, got drowsy, and slept until 7:30.  Sure, that’s a lot of sleep, but considering the past few days, I probably needed it.

While in France, I applied for a couple of jobs, and I got one:  I start next week.  It’s hotel housekeeping, but it is a job and I have no aversion to work.  Just for a lark, I went by my other job (which doesn’t start until the end of August), just to see if I could pick up a few hours before the start of the school year.  My timing was impeccable, because I can.  So I will have two jobs.  Once the school year starts, if I can keep them both to 16 hours each, I can work 32 hours a week and still have enough time to study.  Now not having a love life helps me, as I find I have time to flog myself like a rented mule in order to a) keep body and soul together b) keep my grades at their high level and c) save some money for my eventual déménagement to wherever I end up for grad school.  Sure, it’s not glamorous, but since my life has not been glamorous (trips to France aside), I won’t really notice, will I?

I am also having dinner with my father (I invited myself for free food), which normally fills me with dread, but because I have hours of conversational material, I’m actually looking forward too.  My father has many stellar qualities, but keeping his end of a conversation has never been one of them.  On an ordinary day, I simply cannot keep the flow of conversation going by myself for that long:  but I have hours of material and a captive audience, so I will be more than all right (I can’t say the same for my dad, though).

Cicadian rhythms excluded, I have found it incredibly easy to fall back into my regular life.  I also found it easy, once I caught up on sleep, adjust to life in France, so I guess I’m even more adaptable than I originally thought.  I think that bodes well for the rest of my life.

Back home with some thoughts Wednesday, Aug 1 2007 

It is 8:17 am CDT, and one of the first things I did this morning is revisit my sweet, sweet Wireless Internet connection.   Mmmmmmm…technology.  The three posts that follow are my thoughts from Paris.  I’m sure I’ll post later on the subjects of my trip home and whatnot.  I had a good time, but it’s good to be home, too!

The Stairmaster Wednesday, Aug 1 2007 

 I believe this may be a three-post day, as I have been too dead-ass tired to walk the block and a half to McDonald’s for their sumptuous free Wi-Fi. These may even wait until I get back and can use my own WiFi connection. On verra.

 

Today, I felt pretty dang good, considering my marathon museum session. I ate breakfast, and took the Métro to Notre Dame. You may have heard of it. I toured the cathedral itself, and then noticed that the line to get into the towers was kind of long. They opened in fifteen minutes, and since I have noticed that in France, lines seldom get shorter, I stood in line. After about 35 minutes, we were let in (they let in 20 people every 10 minutes). And we climbed up the stairs, until we hit the gift shop, where we waited until we could climb more stairs. They warn you that if you’re claustrophobic, you shouldn’t go up the towers. Let me warn you – if you’re claustrophobic, you shouldn’t go up the tower. I’m not, and even I felt a little closed in. But mostly I felt exhausted, because it’s a lot of stairs. I have decided that stairs were the cause of death for many medieval people, as there are a lot of them, and they are tiny and go in circles (the stairs, not the medieval people – although they were tiny, too). Finally, just as I think my thighs are going to catch fire and my lungs will explode, we get to the top (not the top top, but I’ll talk about that later). Predictably, the view is incredible, and everyone took 8,000 pictures a piece. You can also go up into the bell tower, which I did. No wonder Hugo made Quasimodo a hunchback, since only a hunchback can get through the doors of the bell tower. The bell is enormous, and I took a picture of it, because that is my job as a tourist. As I was putting my camera back in my backpack, one of the employees asked me and two other tourists if we had seen the bell tower. There was also an option to go up to the very top, where you can stay a maximum of 5 minutes. They headed to the top, I headed for the staircase down.

 

“Aren’t you going to the top?” The guide asked me*

“Oh God, no.” I replied.

 

He laughed and I climbed down every single one of those tiny stairs back down.

 

Then it was off to Sainte-Chapelle, which is less grand, but impressive in a different way. You enter through the chapelle-basse, and take (you’ve guessed it) a tiny spiral staircase up to the upper chapel. Which I did. It is lovely, and I took a few pictures.

 

Then it was off to La Concierge, where you can see Marie Antoinette’s prison cell, among other things. It is pretty cool; you can see a real guillotine blade. Also, there are stairs (though not nearly as many).

 

For the first time in either sojourn in Paris, I was actually ahead of schedule. I took the opportunity to wander around Ile-Saint-Louis, take some pictures, and act all touristy. But then I started to get hungry. There are many restaurants in the area, yes, but I needed a grocery store. I wandered, keeping track of my direction, in case I needed to back track. A couple of blocks later, I see the sign “Ed.” In France, that is a grocery store. So I go in, and peruse. I manage to buy a salad (avec fourchette), roasted peanuts and a huge bottle of limonade (kind of like sprite) for 3.31. I feel like I have hit the jackpot. I find a nice little spot in front of Hotel de Ville, and like many other people, eat my lunch al fresco. Fortunately, the weather was beautiful, though a little chilly. After lunch, I make my way to…the Louvre. I have my two day museum pass, and I figure I’m going to give it another shot. Which I did, though the crowds were in-freakin-sane. I nearly got trampled a dozen times by roving packs of Asian tour groups, some of whom are unfamiliar with the idea that you don’t actually get to touch the artwork. There was a lot of “hey look, I’m in front of a painting” pictures, and I saw some people taking video, of all things. Why take video of a painting? Search me.

 

I succeeded in seeing the biggies (though not the Mona Lisa, as I value my life), and headed off to the Tuilieries, where I accidentally got trapped in a conversation with a middle-aged Frenchman. He was harmless enough, and he wasn’t too creepy, but I wonder if there is a segment of the population that is under the impression that female tourists are all looking for romance, and that all they have to do is talk to enough female tourists in the pursuit of love. I managed to shake him when I saw l’Orangerie, which was on my list. He seemed disappointed that I did not want to continue on with him, though I’m sure he wandered around, looking for another tourist with French language skills and a reserve of politeness.

 

Once again, I had to wait to get in, but not too long, and since I was rocking my Museum Pass, I didn’t have to wait in line to buy a ticket. There isn’t a lot at l’Orangerie, but what is there is astounding. Two circular rooms holding Monet’s immense Waterlilies series, which would, according to me, be worth the price of admission. But no, there are more Renoirs, Cezannes and Modiglianis (among others) than you shake a stick at.

 

But even I have other interests than looking at art all day. So I headed off to Place de la Concorde. I had planned on taking the Métro to the Arc de Triomphe, but since I could see it in the distance, I figured what the hell.

 

Since I never succeeded in fulfilling one of my plans, I might as well explain it now. I had become obsessed with the fast food restaurant Quick, because they were offering Simpsons glasses with the purchase of Le Meal Simpson, in honor of the new movie. I have had a passionate longing for these glasses since I learned of their existence. The Simpsons speak French. I feel there is nothing else to say. However, I was opposed to spending 6 Euros (the price of dental floss) for a fast food meal, when I was eating nutritious French food at home, merely to get the glasses, as awesome as they were? I kept thinking that I could ask if it would be possible to buy the glasses without the meal, but my knowledge of French customer service told me that it was unlikely. Yesterday was the last day of the promotion, and since I landed in Paris, I had seen no Quicks. Today, on the Champs Elysees, I saw two. Fat lot of good it does me now, I wanted the glasses.

 

I have to interrupt this post to bitch that on my floor, there is a roomful of obnoxious American college students, who are now rapping along with some CD, despite the fact that they are some of the whitest, most suburban-y passel of Abercrombie-wearing frat boys that I have ever seen. But on to my story.

 

So I get to the end of the Champs Elysees, where there is this Arch built by some guy named Napoleon. So I go up. More damn stairs. I tell you, the French are a bunch of sadists. Hell, the word sadist comes from a Frenchman. While catching my breath, I was approached by a cute Frenchman in a yellow t-shirt. Alas, he only wanted me to take a survey, which I do, en français. After the survey, I headed up the final flight of stairs. Once again, I am rewarded with a magnificent view. And once again, I take a boatload of pictures. After awhile, I descended each and every stair I climbed up. Once I hit ground level, I take some time to admire the arch. On the ground underneath, they have plaques commemorating those who have died for their country; but they also have DeGaulle’s call to the French to join him in the fight against the Nazis. I got a little choked up when I read it. Then, I noticed doings a-transpiring, and hung around to see what was going on. It was some sort of ceremony, but it wasn’t the usual Tomb of the Unknown Soldier ceremony, as that it is at another time. They had current French soldiers, and some old-timers as well. I think it was a special occasion, as the some of the current French soldiers had their cameras, and were clearly treating the ceremony as a special occasion. One of the soldiers (one who didn’t have a camera) had beautiful eyes. Granted, he wasn’t smoldering like M. La Poste, but the eyes were extraordinary, and he was pretty damn cute in his uniform. Alas, it was not meant to be, and I took the Métro back to the hotel. I debated getting food, but was more tired than hungry. So I’m guessing that there will be a wealth of posts once I get home, and update everyone on what I’ve been up to while under radio silence. My big plans for tonight: repacking my suitcases.

 

*Conversation in French. Yay, me.

And here’s a picture of Mabel standing next to Whistler’s Mother… Wednesday, Aug 1 2007 

(note: written on Sunday 7/29) 

So I was in full-on museum mode today, though between the Tour de France and the Musée d’Orsay’s policy on credit cards, I wasted a bit of time. But, despite some disappointments, it was a good day, even if my feet were about to mutiny by the end.

 

Still sore from lugging my luggage through the Paris Métro system, I was still game to walk to the Musée d’Orsay – it’s about a half an hour walk, and I figured I’d see some sights on the way. I walked down Avenue Motte-Picquet, took yet another picture of the Eiffel Tower, then walked past the Ecole Militaire (alma mater of some guy called Napoleon) to les Invalides. Took some more pictures, but there seemed to be some sort of hubbub, with a bunch of police and pompiers (firefighters) zooming around the place. As I got to the Seine, it made sense, they were zooming around getting things ready for the cyclists (who were due back this evening). Tout était boulversé (everything was all out of whack), but I took some touristy photos, then headed off to the Musée d’Orsay; but first, I gave some Australian guy directions to Place de la Concorde. I find that hilarious, since I was able to give good directions, but after living in Grenoble for 6 weeks, I couldn’t give you directions to anything there.

 

I get to the Orsay, and there is a line, but it is moving at a good clip. My plan was to buy a Paris Museum Pass, and then hit the Louvre and Centre Pompidou. After waiting about twenty minutes to go through the security check, I wait in the line for the Museum Pass. I get to about second in line when I see, in English, French and Spanish, “Due to past issues, we no longer accept foreign credit cards.” What was I planning to use to pay for my museum pass? That’s right, a foreign credit card; well, it isn’t foreign to me. Nevertheless, I need to get out of line and plan my next move. I figure that even if I went to the ATM and pulled the money out, I would need to wait in line again, so I might as well go to the Louvre (which, by the way, happily accepted my “foreign” credit card). I knew there was no way to see all the Louvre, but I didn’t see many of the “biggies,” though I’m not on fire to see the Mona Lisa, since it’s the size of a senior class photo and all you can see are a bunch of tourists trying to take a picture of the Mona Lisa (which everyone has seen before anyway, just not “in person”). I started in the wrong wing, and while I don’t regret seeing the Islamic art, or the Medieval decorative arts, etc. Almost all the famous stuff is in the other wings, though I saw a boatload of Ruebens and Rembrandts, among other things. After three exhausting hours in the Louvre, I headed back over to the Orsay. The line had grown exponentially, and like the hottest nightclub in town, we had to wait to be let in. After nearly 40 minutes of waiting, I got in, and with my Paris Museum Pass, I sailed right in to the museum itself.

 

Not to slag the Louvre or anything, since I saw only a fraction of the art there, but the Musée d’Orsay kicks arty ass. You wanna see some Manets? Courbets? Van Goghs? Yep, they’ve got them. How about a Cezanne? Oui. Rodin? Sure, even though he has his own museum elsewhere, Auguste is kickin’ in old school. In the Impressionist gallery, I run into E, and we had a chuckle about running into each other in Paris. Another thing we chuckled about is this “trend” where people (by which I mean tourists) get their pictures taken in front of paintings. We both find this weird. “Here I am, standing next to Whistler’s Mother (which is at the Orsay).” Okay, but can’t you just tell us? We promise we’ll believe you.

 

After I did a good circuit of the Orsay, it was time to hit the Pompidou. Yes, it is a lot of museums to hit in one day, but my time is limited here. At this point, I could have walked, but I was in no condition to do so. So I found the nearest Métro station, and rode to the Centre Pompidou. By this point, I was starving, and needed to find a place to eat first. And a confession: I ate at McDonald’s. I know, but I needed something cheap, full of calories (it was already 5 pm, and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast), and within eyesight. McDo fit all three requirements. Two things keep it from being too sad – I have been eating genuine French food for most of the summer (and now I have a book of recipes to make French food at home), and like the film fan I am, I ordered a “Royal with Cheese.”

 

Either because the Centre Pompidou is so big, or because modern art freaks a lot of people out, there were no lines to get in. Like the Orsay, the Pompidou kicks arty ass – though in an edgier way. After today, I have decided that Man Ray rocks. He is now on the list of my favorite artists – with Van Gogh and Rothko. I have others, but this isn’t the post for it. My theory about modern art is that it is easy to miss the artist’s passion behind it, because you spend a lot more time trying to suss out the significance of it. And then you see a piece that you just “get” and you stop worrying about trying to “understand” it. That comes and goes, like with anything. I used to find modern art “interesting” but not emotionally satisfying, but a few years ago, I had an epiphany at the Art Institute, and now I often prefer modern art. Earlier today, I saw this piece that blew me away. I have forgotten the artist’s name, which means I will have to look it up on line. It was this big bamboo airplane, with small fans behind it, and a whole bunch of stuff confiscated at the Sao Paulo Airport in 2004 – scissors, Swiss Army knives, corkscrews, etc – stuck into it. It was amazing. I am so in love with this sculpture. It is, for lack of a better word, neat.

 

After finishing at the Centre Pompidou, I decided to go back to the hotel, and not try to find a spot and wait for the cyclists. The weather stunk today, and since people were already waiting at 2 pm, I figured there wouldn’t be a spot for me, anyway. Maybe next year.

 

Tomorrow, if I am not too wiped out from today’s excursion, Notre Dame, Ste Chapelle and the Arc de Triomphe.

People who have died Wednesday, Aug 1 2007 

 (note: written on Saturday 7/28)

Today was the day I left Grenoble, my home for the past 6 weeks, for Paris. I was a smart cookie for packing an empty weekend bag, as the laws of physics would not allow me to put everything into one suitcase, even if it does expand. However, the smartness of the cookie could be debated as I had to lug my backpack, my original suitcase (expanded) and a new, third bag. The third bag does slip over the pop up handle of the big suitcase (which has wheels), but every time I hit stairs, I thought “Merde” or “Damn” and proceeded to bang up my legs as I hoisted everything I brought to France and all the stuff that I managed to acquire since I have been here (which is clearly more than that 6 Euro package of dental floss). You have not lived until you have: lugged three suitcases down four flights of stairs, hoisted them on and off a train, dragged them through one Metro station, then dragged them through the most labyrinthine (and escalator-free) Metro station in Paris, then for kicks, up four more flights of stairs, this time narrow, spiral flights of stairs.

 

My legs are killing me (since I follow OSHA’s advice and lift with my legs, my back is not killing me), and I hauled my exhausted American ass through the Catacombs, the Jardin des Plantes and Père Lachaise Cemetery (which is beyond enormous – in an hour and 15 minutes, I only managed to find Gericault, Bizet, and Oscar Wilde (and I only found Oscar Wilde because I happened upon a huge-ass tour group). So no, no pictures of Jim Morrison’s grave, which I’m pretty sure is a requirement when you visit Paris. I did hear some people talk about how “Jim was waiting for them,” but I think it’s safe to say that that doesn’t count. I’m more disappointed about not finding Edith Piaf, Nadar, Chopin (since I have a picture of the cage in which his heart is buried in Warsaw, I wanted to reunite the two) or Molière. I doubt getting a map would have helped, as I kept looking at the big maps in by the entrances, and kept winding up in the same place.

 

You may have noticed with visits to the Catacombs and Père Lachaise, it might have been a morbid day, but it was not. I was too busy to get too maudlin, although I’m sure that will change. I did receive some death news, but not human death news. The Ex’s cat had to be put to sleep. He had the cat for nearly 20 years, and I felt bad for both of them. I know how much it hurts to lose your pet, and Cat was a hell of a kitty. I also wonder if the Ex’s house is going to seem lonely without the Cat. Like I said, it was sad news (though not altogether unexpected. But the day’s activities and Cat’s voyage to Kitty Heaven were not related.

 

As promised, some favorite signs I have seen in France:

 

Snack Gastronomique

Discount Mariage

(in Neon) Pain (alternating with a neon sign of a croissant)

Mr. Bricolage (bricolage is French for the activity of do-it-yourself)