Monday, 28 February 2011

Scooting about La Tour Eiffel!

 A must see for any Tourist is La Tour Eiffel!
And though technically I am now a resident in the Ile-de-Paris, that is exactly what I spent my second weekend gawking at!

Yes, I have seen the Eiffel Tower before and I have climbed up to the top and taken dozens of millions of photos! And then my Mum also joined me and regretted it later due to muscle fatigue! Granted! But I have never taken the metro to Trocadero before and jumped off only to be greeted with the most stunning views of this impressive bit of architeture this area has to offer!

But it wasn't only the fact that the sun was shining, the birds were singing or that La Tour Eiffel was striking against the stormy clouds and contrasting blue sky! :) No, what really made me like this place were the people!

There were the usual tourists posing awkwardly while simultaneously keeping an eye on their precious cameras because of the nearby tacky souvenir merchant sellers and the habitual children screaming and traffic growl that is the base of any city 'buzz'!
But on top of this:

There were skateboarders! With skateboards of every shape, size and colour!
All performing: Jumps, Kickflips, Ollies, Fakies...!

video

There was a BMX rider performing the most impressive combination of 'Parkour' & Bike Stunts!

People dancing in, if I had to guess, a Spanish Style!

video

And there were rollerbladers everywhere!
All plugged into their MP3 Players and jumping and twirling safe in their little bubble of music!

The most unbelievable stunt I saw was performed by a Man who had to be atleast 55 years old.
He laid out cups in a line and before you had time to ask "What is that old man doing??"
He had raced up and down - slaleming all the cups without missing one!
It was all over in less than 5 seconds!
It was so fast I didn't even have time to film it!




We did have a nice chat with the Spectular-Speed-Slalem-Man which started with the most important question of all:
Hazel: "Why do you have a rubber weasel hanging from your belt?!"
S-S-S-Man: "Just so you ask that question! And next time ask permission before using my Slalem Course! ...I'm joking!" 

 Yes, it wasn't the children that couldn't resist the urge to try out this slalem course, but the adults who eagerly hijacked the kids scooters! :D

He did tell us that every Saturday they do rollerblading lessons....
Watch this space!
As soon as I can get my hands on some roller blades, sufficient safety gear so I could wrestle a tiger without getting a single bruise and possibly some adequate balance!

I'm there!
:) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :) :)

La Galette!

The French have a period of Cake after Christmas. Nope! No ridiculous english diets! No endless celebrities advertising DIY 'Dance yourself thin' DVD's! Non!

Cake!

'La galette de Rois' is the cake for celebrating the Epiphany (ou 'La Fête des Rois') and it's sold throughout January in all good bakeries near you! 
*As long as you're living in France or somewhere with this tradition naturally!*
And as good fortune would have it, I arrived in France the tail-end of January which is, coincidentally, the best time to purchase this 'Wafer of the Kings'! 
Pourquoi? 
Because it's near the end of the King Cake Period so when you buy a cake, you get a free bottle of champagne!
...Well, we did in this case! :)

Not only is this cake delicious! But it's fun!
The tradition with this cake is “to draw the kings” to the Epiphany and The practice is to have the youngest person present to hide under the table and as the cake is cut, she/he assigns the slices to the members of the family without bias.
so it is customary for bakers to hide a widget, or “la fève”, inside the batter! And throw in a paper crown too! 
*It is also good practise to cut an extra slice for the "share of the poor" as it could then be offered to the first poor person to arrive at the house.
The one who finds the fève within his/her slice is the King/Queen for the day and gets to wear the paper crown!

And that is exactly what happened on my second day in France and as sentimental as I know it is I saved the fève.
...Oh alright, yes... And the paper crown....


France, you are unique! Everything little part of the culture I like! :)
Though, I'm not hard to impress right? In my book, any country that includes cake as part of celebrating a holiday is onto a good thing!

Driving on the Right! It's so Wrong!

I think it's fair to say that my first drive in France went fairly smoothly!
I didn't stall once!
                    No one swore at me!
And considering that Stephane was completely lost and using his iPhone to direct us through traffic!
And bearing in my mind the fact that:
                        "Tout droit!" & "Tourner à droite!"
 Can sound very similar when said in a hurry :)

We made it to our destination! :) Je suis fier! :)

The Bike Shop was were we had arrived and after about two hours of trying to understand the intense discussion on bikes, electric bikes, bike pedals, bike chains, bike tyres & being sent off down the road to try out various bikes - we purchased two....you guessed it bikes!

I felt very french during this episode: Cycling down the road on the right hand side, with a basket on the front, greeting passer's by with a friendly "Bonjour!" and then turning full circle to return to Stephane and the shop assissant with my verdict which was always something along the lines of: "C'est pas lourd et je l'aime!"

I had arrived in France only 4 hours ago and was loving it! Bikes - Check! Intense french discussion! Double check! All I need was a bagette to put in my bike basket!

We took one of the bikes back home with us. This isn't as easy as it sounds! I was driving the Twingo...


So on the return journey - seulement my second attempt at driving 'sur le droit': The boot was wide open, I could see it bouncing up and down as we went along in the rear view mirror! Stephane was on my right clinging to this brand new bike incase it slipped out of the back open boot! And I was sat there in the drivers seat...You guessed it, in my habitual giggles because of the whole situation!

It's true: The french drive like crazy people!

The 'give way' piriority can't make up it's mind and constantly changes sides!
                Some roundabouts are literally a 'free for all'!
                                                                  And they park anywhere they can! But if parked on a pedestrian crossing, the usual action is to: "Just leave the 'azard lights on 'Azel, we won't be long..."

No wonder the French are renowned for making rubbish cars; the manufacteurers don't expect them to survive long anyway before a collison with another vechicle. Why make them time resistant in a city where the rule is 'anything goes'?!



Wednesday, 16 February 2011

J'ai arrivé! :)

"Mon dieu il fait si froid que mes dents sont la danse!"

The guy next to me attempts a smile while his teeth gently chatter against each other. We are squashed in the bus heading towards Charles de Gaulle Airport after having been herded from the warmth of the plane like sheep.

"Je suis d'accord" is all I can muster to say to my airport aqquaintance before burying my face back into my scarf quickly.

It was cold but not in the depths of my coat, where it occured to me that it would be highly embarassing if I could not remember the face of the man who was picking me up from the airport. And the harder I tried to picture it, the more the face blurried infront of me!

My airport aquaintance felt my aniexty and after a game of '20 Questions' I had forgotten the worry entirely. We parted ways after collecting our suitcases and I set off to the exit point where I hoped I would find Stephane, the father of the children I was looking after, with I hoped, a car with a boot large enough for my suitcase to fit in!

All these worries I had conjured up during the build up to this moment were short lived; I received a 'Texto' from my lift, of which I had to obtain a translation for from a Taxi Driver as I'm not well-rehearsed in 'shorthand-french-text-speak', saying:
"No problem, I'm in the wrong place :) The girls are eager to meet you! Just stay were you are I'm coming!"

And that was that. 15 minutes later I had spotted a worried man in a car with two girls in the back waving frantically at me! And within moments of that, I was sat in the car discussing snowmen with the girls.

Stephane seemingly wasn't having much luck today - We got stuck inbetween two barriers at the airport for having lost his ticket, he then fell out of car and lost his shoe simultaneously when trying to find help! Meanwhile, during this episode we had created a rather large audience and a long queue of traffic behind us! Who, helpfully, were honking their horns and let out such a roar of laughter as Stephane freed his shoe from the crack in the pavement!

Finally we were on track to the house and all he had to say was:
"On the radio, my horoscope today was: 'Fishes, don't go out today...' And what did I say to you Gabrielle?"
The voice in the seat behind me says: "It's all bullshit!"

And with that any concerns had vanished;
I had a feeling I was going to like living here!






 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Departure!

I love airports!
                    I truly do!
                          The weird shaped suitcases!
                                                   The hurried, worried passengers running for their plane!

And on Saturday the 29th January 2011, that was me!


Yes, despite getting to the airport early enough so as to have time in which one could squeeze in a farewell laugh with an unforgettable friend and have one more cuppa tea with her and her family:
                                         I was running full pelt for the plane!

The sad truth is: many people back home won’t be surprised at this; timing has never been my strong point! In fact in England, people abide by the “ ’Better tell Hazel 30 minutes earlier just so she arrives on time...” rule.

But why
was I
running
you ask?





Well, picture this:
Dragging your suitcase down the departure tunnel heading towards Gate Number 11, in the quiet but understanding company of 5 others from all over the globe.

A squad of travellers who can't exchange a word in the same language but all united for an instant! 
Just as this strange party of people pass Gate Two, two airport employee pass-by, walking in the opposite direction...They stop suddenly and call:
"You're not all for Paris? Charles de Gaulle?! It's leaving now! The gate is closing! You'd better run!"

                                                                    So there we were;
Sprinting!
                 Gasping for breath! 
                                                 Cursing our 20kg suitcases in all manner of ways and in all five different languages!

All together, as a team we raced down this tunnel, making sure that if one of us got to the plane we wouldn’t let it leave without the others!

Finally Gate Eleven is insight! New life shoots through the Chinese Man's veins who's jogging to your right and he takes the lead! Rounds the corner! To the entrance finish line!!

And there.... he stops dead. His shoulders shag and he joins the end of a large queue for boarding the plane.

Now, whether or not the airport staff were watching our 'International Suitcase Sprint' on the CCTV cameras, with their feet up & bent over from laughing at how gullible we all were!
Or, whether they were correct to inform us of the potential departure of our plane - 5 passengers down or not.
                                                       I don't think I will ever find out!

But, y'know what?
                 Two things occured to me while running:

1) 'Suitcase Speed Sprinting' should be in the Olympic Games.
             (Afterall, Airport Employees would tune in I'm sure! And looking back, who can blame them? At the very least our rush in the airport would be undoubtedly more entertaining to watch than Bowls afterall. Watch this space for a new spectator sport!)

And:
2) How much I really wanted to go! I couldn't miss this plane to Paris!
                       I ran so hard, for so long!

Looking back, maybe it was a sign to kick me out of my circle of uneasy thoughts that had begun to manifest themselves & were on continuous repeat around my skull: 'Am I doing the right thing in leaving my luxury 4 walled life behind me? I have every I need right here...!'

Whilst in that moment of adrenaline filled panic, it became quite apparent to me:
The regret of not trying in the first place would be worse than failing.
"For Your Not A Failure, Until You Fail To Try"
(Quote from Poem: Don't Quit  - Anon)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Packing

You think it'd would be easy, wouldn't you? I went out, brought a large suitcase and said with such confidence: "Easy, I can fit everything I need in that!"

How wrong!

"Suitcase, can't you pack yourself? You can come to Paris with me if you do!"

I laid all my clothes out on my bed and began the process of packing...which lasted for about 2 weeks! 

A city landscape,
                  Towering skyscraper's of clothes!
                                                           That was the only progress I made!

Infact, it was only on my last day in England that I filled the suitcase and zipped it shut sucessfully for the first time! I had to leave so much behind all due to the Luggage Weight Restrictions of the ironically named 'EasyJet'. Who conjured a smile from me only by this badly written rule on their website in the 'Baggage Allowanes Rules' Section:
 "This weight allowance applies to the passenger rather than to the bag..."

God, I hope their pilots are more intelligent!